Police charge W.Va. woman with animal cruelty after dog dies in car

By Mike McPhate
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A woman has been charged with animal cruelty after her yellow Labrador retriever died in an overheated car while she shopped at a Costco in Frederick, authorities said.

Cathryn Washington, 67, left 14-year-old Delta in the vehicle as she ran in to buy some pet products on an afternoon when the temperature hit 104 degrees, said Sgt. David Luckenbaugh of Frederick Animal Control.

She intended to just be 15 minutes or so, she later told her estranged husband, Charles Washington. She returned after about an hour and 15 minutes to find Delta clinging to life.

Cathryn, a former nursing professor in Seattle, had sole custody of the pet for less than two weeks, the result of a recent separation from Charles, he said.

Charles, of Seattle, said he was much closer to the dog. The retired Army dentist said he had reared her since she was a puppy.

But in the bitterness of separation after 38 years of marriage, Charles said, Cathryn insisted on bringing Delta with her as she moved east. "My family said just let it go when she said she wanted the dog," he said, so he did.

Eleven days later, Delta was dead.

A message left at a phone number for Cathryn was not returned. Luckenbaugh said Cathryn is a resident of Fairmont, W.Va. It wasn't known what brought her to Frederick.

Luckenbaugh said the precise moment of Delta's death was unclear. After Cathryn returned to the vehicle, investigators say she went back inside the Costco and returned the dog food, bedding and treats she had purchased. At that point, she told Costco employees the dog was dead, authorities said.

A worker followed Cathryn out to her car and saw what appeared to be a dead dog. The store notified Frederick Animal Control, and its investigators caught up with Cathryn at another location, authorities said.

She is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 31.

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