CARRBORO – Leaving your dog in a car for only a few minutes can not only be deadly, but could also hold legal consequences.

Mid-day on June 10, program director of Carrboro’s Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, Debra Cunningham, left Worthy, a service dog in training, in a car with the windows completely rolled up for two hours. Worthy suffered a heat stroke while locked in the vehicle.

Cunningham left Worthy in her car because his foster mother, Charlene Hayes, was coming into the office for a meeting. Training a service dog requires complete separation between foster mother and pup. After her meeting with Hayes, Cunningham returned to her car to find Worthy unconscious and panting.

Maria Ikenberry, Executive Director of EENP, and Cunningham rushed Worthy to The Animal Hospital and then to Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital in Durham. There, Worthy died of cardiac arrest at 7:30 a.m. on June 11.

Cunningham received a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals, statue 14-360; she’s due in court in Hillsborough Thursday morning.

Not in direct connection to this case, but the North Carolina legislature recently took action on animal cruelty. On July 22, the legislature ratified Senate Bill 626, which addresses the safety of animals locked in motor vehicles.

The bill allows for rescue workers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, or animal control officers to enter a vehicle to remove an animal if the animal seems to be in danger and the owner cannot be found.

Pricey Harrison, representative of Guilford County, co-sponsored the amendment.

Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill into a law on July 29.

To read the Session Law 2013-377, click here.