Dog’s death inspires educational efforts

Jul. 15, 2013 @ 02:07 PM

The life of a dog named Worthy and his death from heatstroke have inspired two women who knew and loved him to start Facebook pages to educate people about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars.

Worthy was a service dog in training who died after a program director for Eyes, Ears Nose and Paws, which trains and places service dogs, left him in a car for two hours in a parking lot on June 10.
Charlene Hayes, who fostered and helped train Worthy, has started “The Worthy Project,” and Elaine White, who bred and donated Worthy and his brother, Taylor, to Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws, started “For the Love of Worthy.”
Each set up Facebook pages that give information about Worthy’s death and information about how quickly temperatures can rise inside a car, even on rainy days or when cars are parked in the shade.
The Carrboro Police Department is investigating Worthy’s death to determine whether the program director, Deb Cunningham or anyone else with the organization, should be charged with animal cruelty. The investigation has not yet been completed, and police are not commenting on the ongoing investigation.
Cunningham put Worthy in her car at the offices of EENP on Lloyd Street about noon on June 10 because she didn’t want Worthy to see Hayes, who was stopping by the office that afternoon, according to the executive director, Maria Ikenberry.
June 10 was a stormy day with periods of rain and sun and temperatures in the 70s and low 80s during the two hours Worthy was left in the car with the windows rolled up. When Cunningham went to get him out of the car, she found him unresponsive. He was rushed to a nearby vet for treatment, who measured his temperature at 109 degrees. The normal temperature for a dog is about 101. He died the next morning.
Hayes said her plan is to ask stores to put up posters with a picture of Worthy near their door reminding people not to leave their dogs in cars while they shop.
White, who breeds and shows dogs, said she hopes to engage breeders and people who show dogs to spread the word. She wants to print brochures and magnets that have a photograph of Worthy on them and a temperature chart that shows how quickly the inside of a closed car can reach dangerous heat levels.
White said she will no longer donate dogs to EENP or volunteer with EENP after what happened to Worthy.
“That was my child,” White said. “I can’t imagine being part of that agency after what happened.”
Worthy’s brother, Taylor, was placed with a Cary man with muscular dystrophy in March. Taylor’s owner had hoped that if Worthy couldn’t be placed with someone, maybe he could buy him to keep him with his brother, Taylor, White said.
“That broke my heart,” she said. “That really crushed me. My two boys, they made me proud.”
Democratic N.C. Rep. Pricey Harrison sponsored a bill in April that would make it unlawful to confine animals in motor vehicles under circumstances that threaten the animal’s health. If the animal suffers injury or death, it would be a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the animal does not suffer injury or death, it would be a Class 2 misdemeanor.
If passed, House Bill 612 would allow any animal control officer, law enforcement officer or rescue squad worker who believes a pet is in danger to break into a car to rescue it, she said.
Harrison said the bill received early positive support, but one district attorney objected, saying that it might be difficult to prosecute, and the bill ended up with the Rules Committee.
“It got put in Rules, which is where bills go to die,” she said.
Because there are so many controversial bills and protests involving the N.C. General Assembly happening lately, no one made much of a fuss when Bill 612 faltered, Harrison said.
The bill is not dead yet, and it could be revived if there is some grassroots support for it, she said.
“It may take some public pressure to get the bill moving,” Harrison said.
The two Facebook pages are: www.facebook.com/ForTheLoveOfWorthy and www.facebook.com/worthyproject.