Society

Service Dog Training Program May Close After Golden Retriever Left in Hot Car

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws in Carrboro, North Carolina, has canceled fundraisers, lost most of its board members and closed its former office, the News and Observerreports. EENP began training dogs in 2008 to work with people with diabetes, seizure disorders and other medical conditions.

“Whether we will continue as an organization or close remains an open question,” said Gretchen Aylsworth, secretary and one of the nonprofit’s three remaining board members. EENP placed its first dogs in 2010, charging $20,000 per dog and helping clients who could not pay the full amount with scholarships.

On June 10, program manager Debra Cunningham locked Worthy, a beautiful, happy, in-training Golden Retriever in her vehicle for two hours. When she returned, Worthy was unconscious and panting, according to records and EENP. He died the next morning from hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature the News and Observer reported.

Cunningham was charged by Carrboro police with misdemeanor animal cruelty. Her court case has been continued twice and is now scheduled for November 19, Jason Murphy, assistant district attorney, told the News and Observer.

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Immediately afterwards the nonprofit began to lose the confidence of even some of its strongest supporters and had to cancel its most popular fundraisers. A recent open house was canceled, which raised $28,000 for the organization last year

The agency no longer leases office space in Carrboro, and its charitable solicitation license expired May 15, 2012--although it continues to solicit donations on its website. EENP says it did renew its license within the grace period ending October 18.

Seven of its ten board members voluntarily resigned, Aylsworth said. Previous Chairwoman Mary Justice said EENP has changed the structure of the board and the organization to move forward in a smaller way; but she no longer serves on the board.

Cunningham, one of the founders of EENP, continues to train dogs; however, she is required to be supervised to ensure she is not alone with dogs and is also not permitted to travel with dogs. Her hours also were reduced, according to a letter sent to EENP volunteers and friends from the board.

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The organization is committed to keeping people in their roles at EENP,” Ikenberry said. “What happened didn’t demonstrate an ongoing problem. This was a one-time occurrence that was a tragic mistake, but it is not indicative of the future.”

Source: News Observer