Golden Retriever Service Dog Left in Car for 2 Hours – Dies

Carrboro, NC – I realize that there are many stories in the news of this happening, but apparently it is still not hitting home with some people.

The temperature outside is not relative to the temperature inside a vehicle, and it only takes minutes to reach temps over 100 degrees even when its only 75 outside.


On June 10, Deb Cunningham learned this lesson the hard way.  Deb is a program director at an organization called Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws.  They are a non-profit organization that trains and places service and diabetic assistance dogs.

On that particular day, Worthy, a 2 year old golden retriever, was suffering separation anxiety so Cunningham took him to the office.  Worthy had completed his training and was scheduled to be placed with his new client the following week.

Because it was only 73 degrees and she parked in the shade (at high noon with the windows up) Cunningham thought the dog would be fine in the car.  Worthy was left in the car to avoid upsetting him as his foster mom was attending the office that afternoon.

2 hours later, when Cunningham returned to the vehicle, Worthy was unconscious and panting.  When she arrived at the vet his temperature was 109.

EENP Executive director Maria Ikenberry says the car was “not hot” when they discovered Worthy and that he was probably anxious and ran circles in the car and overheated.

Sadly, Worthy suffered cardiac arrest and died the next day at Triangle Veterinary Hospital.

The organization is considering disciplinary actions against Cunningham and The Carborro Police are investigating a charge of animal cruelty.

"Worthy" Photo - Herald Sun
“Worthy” Photo – Herald Sun

R.I.P Worthy.  Here’s a video of Worthy from the EENP Website.

Service dog left in car dies from heatstroke – The Herald Sun


14 thoughts on “Golden Retriever Service Dog Left in Car for 2 Hours – Dies

Add yours

  1. Hard to reply to this.This woman should have known better and should be fired. We have lost this precious girl and she suffered because of her stupidity.

  2. No one should leave a dog unattended in car. I believe that the woman was derelict in her duty and irresponsible – I can’t see how she can continue in her position. I am certain that woman is contrite but her lack of judgement is appalling.

  3. OMG that woman needs to be fired immediately and the organization investigated…and absolutely there should be criminal charges pursued…I can’t understand stories like this but it’s particularly egregious when it’s someone who works with companion animals…they are the ones who should be educating

  4. Reblogged this on ReeCreates and commented:
    I cannot begin to tell you how much this article upsets me; we are to be guardians for animals. It’s not bad enough that for some reason, the public at large doesn’t seem to use common sense and not leave an animal (or child!) in a car unattended, especially in the heat. But when a person who is well-versed with handling animals does it? It sends me into crazy Irish/Italian mode, for sure. Lord help me….

  5. To say this infuriates me doesn’t even begin to explain how I feel! What the heck is wrong with people??? Do they have no common sense at all??? This woman should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law … and then locked in the “not hot” car for several hours and see how she fairs! What a jerk!!!

  6. I’m going to take what I believe is going to be a very unpopular opinion – when we as dog owners, advocates, organizations perpetuate myths – then even people who should be educated don’t often have the time to research and find out what exactly IS the truth.

    How long is a dog safe in a car? If someone is wondering about this question, when they see charts like the one above which is incorrect and incomplete – they may discount the danger, altogether.

    Will a dog die if you leave it in the car for a minute – c’mon now, seriously. But if for some reason one does need to leave a dog for a bit – will it be safe?

    Today I sat in my car, temperature outside was 74 degrees, sunny, I was parked in dappled shade, my beloved dog outside, less I hear about exposing him to danger, for 10 minutes. I brought my highly accurate thermometer with me, and used a back up as well, just for comparison. I got in the car and the temperature inside was 76 degrees. I rolled down the windows (I wouldn’t leave a dog in my car with the windows up, ever!) and in five minutes, the temperature was 78 degrees. In 10 minutes, the temperature was 80 degrees. I was feeling no acute distress, but my poor dog was like “Mom? What’s going on? Aren’t we going anywhere?”

    How long can a dog be left in the car IS a valid question and deserves a valid answer – and that MAY save the lives of many animals – misrepresentation of facts will NOT help the cause.

    Also, I question the woman – if she’s experienced with animals, she should know that separation anxiety can cause a dog in a car to overheat — excessive movement and excessive panting CAN contribute to this – the dog’s temperature was 109 when it was brought in, however.

    If the dog was truly a service animal (not a companion) in most states, she should have been able to bring the dog inside with her – and as a person who is the DIRECTOR of an agency, she should have known this. I noticed the news article I read indicated this organization charges $20,000 for one of their service dogs – Now to me that’s a crime as well! Dog donated, trainers volunteers, etc. In my opinion, this is one of those “shady” organizations….

    At any rate, this director should have known the North Carolina laws that allow access to any service dog or service dog in training.

    § 168-4.2. May be accompanied by service animal. SDIT also permitted.

    (a) Every person with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a service animal trained to assist the person with his or her specific disability in any of the places listed in G.S. 168?3, and has the right to keep the service animal on any premises the person leases, rents, or uses…

    But those last few points aren’t really a part of the subject that I’m most concerned about – the fact that false information doesn’t do any good to the public at large and in itself can be a danger!

  7. Ooops – I didn’t get the full law copied in:

    168-4.2. May be accompanied by service animal. SDIT also permitted.

    (a) Every person with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a service animal trained to assist the person with his or her specific disability in any of the places listed in G.S. 168?3, and has the right to keep the service animal on any premises the person leases, rents, or uses. The person qualifies for these rights upon the showing of a tag, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, under G.S. 168?4.3, stamped “NORTH CAROLINA SERVICE ANIMAL PERMANENT REGISTRATION” and stamped with a registration number, or upon a showing that the animal is being trained or has been trained as a service animal. The service animal may accompany a person in any of the places listed in G.S. 168?3.

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