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Posted at 11:16 AM ET, 07/19/2010

Woman charged in dog's hot-car death

By Mike McPhate

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, Sgt. David Luckenbaugh of Frederick Animal Control said.

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. “The dog just died in her arms,” Charles said he told her.

Cathryn, a former nursing professor at Seattle Pacific University, had only had sole custody of the pet for less than two weeks, the outcome of a “vindictive” separation from Charles in recent months, he said.

Charles, of Seattle, said he was much closer with the dog. The retired Army dentist said he reared her since she was a puppy, feeding her, walking her, brushing her hair, taking her for shots and camping with her. In 2008, the family spent between $3,600 and $3,800 for an emergency hysterectomy, he said.

But in the bitterness of separation after 38 years of marriage, Charles said, she insisted on bringing Delta with her as she moved out east. “My family said, 'just let it go' when she said she wanted the dog.” 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, whose investigators caught up with Cathryn at another location, authorities said.

Charles said Delta was a “sweetheart,” the kind of dog that insisted on sleeping in the bed with him, brushed up against his legs endlessly, and looked at him with sad eyes when he left the house.

In a moment of sentimentality when Delta was a pup, Charles said he put aside her baby teeth as a keepsake. He still has them.

“I probably always will,” he said.

Washington is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 31.

-- Mike McPhate

By Mike McPhate  | July 19, 2010; 11:16 AM ET
Categories:  Maryland  
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It's obvious she knew what she was doing. That dog was left in the car for over an hour in 100+ degree weather. What's crazy is "Investigators say that after Cathryn returned to the vehicle to find the dog struggling for life, she went back inside the Costco and returned the dog products" Who doesn't call 911 or try to take the dog to a vet for treatment, instead she goes back in the store to return purchases. Sick people. KARMA will prevail. Sounds to me since she so eagerly wanted the dog...this may have been a vengeful act against her ex-husband???? I hope this woman gets the most severe penalty possible.

Posted by: DCer10 | July 19, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Lock her in a car on the next 95+ degrees day. Then walk away.

Posted by: jckdoors | July 19, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Revenge is for idiots and children.

Posted by: gary4books | July 19, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like she was so broken up about the dog's death, the first thing she did was return the dog food. Witch.

Put her head in an oven and leave it there for 60 minutes, then see how she feels.

Posted by: B-rod | July 19, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute, Ms. Washington finds Delta in distress, but not dead, and her first act is to return the dog products?! This woman clearly wanted the dog to die to get back at her husband. That is just evil. Thank god those Costco employees called animal control on her!

Posted by: WickedRose | July 19, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

This makes me sick. She goes back inside to return the items?? That's crazy. My heart breaks for that poor dog and for those who really cared about her well-being.

Posted by: anna131 | July 19, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"After Cathryn returned to the vehicle, investigators say she went back inside the Costco and returned dog food, bedding and treats she had purchased. At that point, she told Costco employees the dog was dead, authorities said."

Please tell me that's not true. How can anyone be so callous? When my cat died, it was easily six months before I could bring myself to drop off his surplus medication and food at the vet's office.

Posted by: pswift00 | July 19, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Everything will come out in the wash, this woman will die alone and bitter. She deserves any suffering that comes her way.

Posted by: drewkinnear | July 19, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Hearbreaking!!!! This woman should be put in jail. What that animal must have suffered. I hope she is never allowed to have another pet again.

Posted by: Susannah3 | July 19, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Now SHE is the true definition of a female dog!

Posted by: Gtown10 | July 19, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I actually had to hold back crying when I read this. And I am a grown man.

Posted by: mr_whatever_20886 | July 19, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I wish this lady would get lost in bad part of SE DC and ask for directions at 3am in the morning. This is just too sad and makes me really angry.

Posted by: xfactor211 | July 19, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Put her in the car and go inside Costco with a Dog and wait until her 67 years old stupid ass dies! it's only fair

Posted by: loriengland01yahoocom | July 19, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

What a DISGUSTING POS! I hope Karma gets this vile excuse for a human being. She needs to be punished SEVERELY!

Posted by: roxy1 | July 19, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm very disappointed that she left Delta in the car with over 100 degree weather to die like that, it sound 2 me that she was gettin revenge against charles her ex, since doin that she just digged a grave 4 herself, now she has 2 pay 4 what she did.

Posted by: Laura21 | July 19, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I've been following this story, & even before the details, I thought it was an ABSOLUTE travesty. I hate to say this b/ granny deserves to be flogged in public... To beg & plead, & for all her pleas to go unanswered. This just breaks my heart.

Posted by: The_Funknician | July 19, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I've been following this story, & even before the details, I thought it was an ABSOLUTE travesty. I hate to say this b/ granny deserves to be flogged in public... To beg & plead, & for all her pleas to go unanswered. This just breaks my heart.

Posted by: The_Funknician | July 19, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

What a joke. I am so sick of these loser, pointless people who shop at these big box stores in their stretch pants and contribute nothing but traffic and dead dogs. I hope they give her jail time.

Posted by: FiatBooks | July 19, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Mentally ill woman, stupid, or revenge against her husband? What pet owner in their right mind would take their dog along with them on such a hot day -- especially an older dog. Morons, they do walk among us.

Posted by: michael49 | July 19, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

This woman is heartless. I pray for the her ex-husband and this poor lost soul.

Posted by: | July 19, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Horrible that she would do this and equally horrible that she was fined a mere $25 (reported by NBC).

Posted by: JulyAugust | July 19, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Animal cruelty needs to be elevated to more serious charges than $25 fines. Every state needs to wake up and address this crime for what it is, a premeditated case of torture and abuse. Any person who is stupid enough to leave a sentient being in a vehicle, left to suffer and die, deserves time in the slammer, a hefty fine, and a DNA (Do Not Adopt) status alert to all animal shelters and rescue groups. The husband deserved the dog and the broad has an evil streak.

Posted by: jharlin00 | July 19, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

JulyAugust said .... Horrible that she would do this and equally horrible that she was fined a mere $25 (reported by NBC).


I don't see any such claim by NBC4. Are you referring to this unrelated dog story in which the owner was fined $25?

Posted by: m_mcphate | July 19, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

xfactor, your racist comment has no place in this discussion..

Posted by: dezlboy1 | July 19, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I will not let this lady within 5 miles of my dogs. What an inconsiderate stupid person.

Posted by: slydell | July 19, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

On a positive note, ROCK ON for the Costco employee who thought to follow her out to her car, get the tag number, and call the authorities. I would like to buy that employee a cocktail :) Whoever you are, you're the only good thing in this story!

Posted by: hill_guy | July 19, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

What an idiotic comment by xfactor.

Posted by: Soguns1 | July 19, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

This is not a simple case of a $ 25 fine.
I heard she has 4 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals filed against her. Each count carries a max of 90 days in jail and/or $ 1000 fine. This is a criminal violation.

Posted by: harveyace55 | July 19, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

There is something seriously wrong with this woman. Throw the book at her.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 19, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

This woman was in Costco for more than an HOUR. Why is it that NO ONE in the parking lot saw the dog inside her car & reported it to someone inside so that an announcement could be made? OR if no one showed up w/in a few minutes, tried to unlock the door or called 911? Wouldn't we all have done these things had there been a person inside a car w/rolled up windows on such a hot day?

If I'd seen the dog, I probably wouldn't have even waited to break a window. I'll reimburse your deductible after you answer your criminal charges.

Posted by: PorthosAD | July 19, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: drfields | July 19, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely unbelievable.

In choosing to hurt her estranged husband, she murdered his beloved pet.

Posted by: jefn | July 19, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Heartbreaking, and infuriating. I'm so sad for the loss of that sweet dog.

Question, because I'm not a dog owner: why do some dog owners feel compelled to take their dogs everywhere they go, and leave them in cars during weather like this? I truly don't understand. Leave the dogs at home where they are safe!

Posted by: natsncats | July 19, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Why are some of you calling xfactor "racist"? Is it because he said he hopes the woman gets caught in "a bad part of DC" late at night? How is that racist? Capital Hill is in Southeast DC. Or are many of YOU alleging that only blacks live in SouthEast DC? Check yourselves before calling another "racist"

Posted by: DickHertz | July 19, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how many people walked by this large dog in the car and did nothing. I've seen people break the windows of cars that contain dogs on hot days.

Posted by: stampadhesive | July 19, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

I'd have to say its a psyco female kinda thing to do. My husbands ex-girlfriend is really crazy, she too killed his pet dog. Just to hurt him for leaveing her... So yea, I'd definatly say that what she did was for revenge and that she's freaking loopy, and need's med's and a theropist!! Also, I hope her ex-hubby keeps an eye out for the crazy lady stalking him... Just sayin'.

Posted by: mtjsmami1 | July 19, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

You idiot! I would never leave my little Lucy in the car in that temp. If I can't take her into the store, then she stays home.
You all have said what I was thinking when I read this story.
I'm glad someone at the store took the time to call the proper authorities, so this woman will be punished; if not with jail time at least with inconveience although she deserves much more. Karma is a b____. I hope this person has many sleepless nights.

Posted by: Christine_D1 | July 20, 2010 12:59 AM | Report abuse

"In 2008, the family spent between $3,600 and $3,800 for an emergency hysterectomy, he said."

Cathryn's mother ought to have had one before she got pregnant.

Lock the woman in the car the same way for the same time.
STOP WHINING, that's only fair.

Posted by: UPURS | July 20, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

@gary4books: "Revenge is for idiots and children."

You forgot god. Revenge is for idiots, children and god. Says so right in the bible.

"Vengeance is mine saith the Lord."

Posted by: Ashikahotchu | July 20, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, this kind of tragedy happens all the time. Every year, dogs die after being intentionally locked inside cars while their owners shop or run other errands.

When it is 72 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can rocket to 116 degrees within an hour, even with windows cracked. When it is 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can soar to 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 30 minutes.

If you see an animal in distress inside a vehicle, call your local animal control agency, police department or humane society right away.

The My Dog is Cool Campaign operated by United Animal Nations lets people know that leaving a dog in a car for even “just a few minutes” may be too long.

To order or download educational fliers and posters, or to enter your zip code and find out if it is too hot to bring your dog in the car, visit:

Posted by: UAN1987 | July 20, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Keep in mind folks that this gal just moved from Seattle. That's right Seattle where the average high temp is only about 80 at most. Not that that is an excuse but it seems to me that it may have just been a tragic accident. People have accused her of not leaving windows open but nowhere in any of these articles was it ever stated that the windows were shut. There may be more going on here than meets the eye and taking only the word of an angry ex-husband is silly and downright one sided.

Posted by: jwash2 | July 23, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

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