After I posted this blog entry this morning I got an email from a volunteer for Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, who thought our reporting had not been fair to program manager Deb Cunningham and also failed to stress her innocence until proven guilty.
"As a volunteer of more than three years with EENP, I have never seen or heard of Deb performing any intentionally cruel or harmful act to animals," the volunteer wrote. "Before becoming a service dog trainer, Deb worked extensively with Orange County Search and Rescue with a trained rescue dog. There were never any allegations of cruelty during her time there. In my mind, facts like these have as much bearing on the charge as the fact that Worthy was in the car for two hours. I'm concerned that even though the charge against Deb may be ultimately proven false, Deb and her wonderful small organization will never recover from the damage done to their names in the local press."
I thanked the reader and asked her to forward names of people we might speak with on the record for a possible followup. Cunningham has not returned our request for an interview.
ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS
We continue to get reaction to our coverage of the death of Worthy, a golden retriever being trained as a service dog who died after being left in a car for two hours June 10.
We received five phone calls, in addition to the letters and social media comments after yesterday's story in the News and Observer and a fuller version in today's Chapel Hill News. On Monday, Carrboro police charged Deb Cunningham, the program manager of Eyes Ears Nose and Paws with misdemeanor animal cruelty. If convicted she could be sentenced to up to 45 day community service.
Several responses cannot be reprinted here. While our Facebook comments were more mixed, with some people defending the agency (though not the actions of Cunningham), people who called were very angry.
"This person should be punished to the full extent of the law and demoted from her position," said one caller. "Such poor judgment. Lord help us if it had been a child."
"I am outraged," said another caller, who said she has broken car windows in Raleigh to rescue dogs. She was especially upset by Worthy's breed. "Golden retrievers are the most loyal, loving people," she said, briefly paused and corrected herself, "animals."
The story got picked up by the Charlotte Observer, prompting a call from reader John Sullivan. He wants me to call him back to talk about the story, which I'll do later. In his message, he asked the question many are asking: simply, "How does someone do that?"
Read the long version of the story now at www.chapelhillnews.com.