Let me make the ultimate conclusion of this post immediate and prominent:
The dog rescuer, Michael Hammons, is admirable and ethical in every way. Elantra Cunningham, the irresponsible and ungrateful woman who placed the dog in peril and had Hammons arrested for rescuing it is unethical and shockingly lacking in civilized values.
Let us all henceforth regard them and treat them appropriately according to their conduct in this matter.
Now the details.
Over the weekend, Desert Storm veteran Michael Hammons saw a small dog locked in a parked car, with its windows closed, on a sweltering day in Athens, Georgia. The dog, an Australian terrier mix, I think, was panting, and Harmon correctly concluded that it was minutes away from death. He smashed in the windows of the car with the footrest of his wife’s wheelchair.
22-year-old Elantra Cunningham, owner of both the dog and the car, insisted that a police officer arrest Hammons for trespass and destroying private property. “It was not an arrest made by the deputy’s own volition,” Chief Deputy Lee Weems explained. “The woman pressed charges for breaking out the window of the car, and the deputy did what he had to do.”
Animal control cited Elantra for leaving her dog in a hot vehicle. Hammons spent the night in jail.
1. Georgia apparently authorizes a citizen to break car windows to save a child, but not an imperiled dog. That needs to change.
2. The officers were obligated to arrest Hammons. The prosecutor is not obligated to charge him. I assume Hammons will not be charged, as I view this as a classic example of when prosecutorial discretion is essential, and obviously so.
3. If he is prosecuted, Hammons has an effective defense. He reasonably assumed that the law permitting a third party to break a car window to save a child’s life also applied to a cooking dog. This is mistake of law, an accepted defense under the Common Law. He could hardly be expected to check out the statute before acting.
4. As for the woman who has Hammons arrested for damaging her precious car to save her dog, yechhh, and that’s the nicest thing I can say about her. She is lacking in gratitude, fairness, kindness, compassion, citizenship, and the basic values that allow individuals to contribute positively to a community. She is irresponsible, and she is a materialistic fool who values car windows over life. This is signature significance. No decent, trustworthy individual would send a man to jail for saving her dog from a horrible death.
5. The community should shun her. If I were her employer, I would fire her, because I wouldn’t want my business to have the reputation that it considers people like her worthy of trust. If I were her husband, brother or father, I would tell her that she is wrong, that I am ashamed of her, and she has embarrassed the family. If she applied for a job, I would not hire her. If she applied for a loan, I would not grant it. If she was my lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, nanny or gardener, I would end our relationship. If she was my fiancee, I’d call off the wedding even if it was the next day. This is a dangerously unethical, mean, terrible human being. She probably knows that—someone this bad can’t possibly not realize it—-but the rest of us have an obligation to…
A. Make sure she knows…
B. Make sure she knows that we aren’t like her…
C. Make sure she knows that her conduct and values are neither acceptable nor tolerable…
D. Make sure everyone else knows that such conduct is neither acceptable nor tolerable…
This is how society becomes ethical. She is a bad apple. Bad apples must be pointed out, designated as such, and rejected. Usually they distinguish themselves by breaking laws, but not always. There is a lot of illegal behavior that doesn’t show the character rot that this woman’s conduct does.
As for Mr. Hammons, if there was ever a perfect object of a crowdfunding campaign, he is it.
And on behalf of civilized people, dog-lovers and Australian terriers, sir, thank you for your service.
49 thoughts on “Atrocious People, Part I: The Dog Rescuer, Elantra Cunningham, And What To Do About Her”
As a dog lover myself, I have a couple of observations.
First, if the driver was only gone for a few minutes and the car was well-cooled when she left, the risk of harm to the animal was negligible. That the dog was panting is not in and of itself proof of distress; some dogs pant when they feel stressed, and being separated from their human is stressful to some dogs.
A car CAN heat up quickly – ten or fifteen minutes – so if in fact the dog had been in there for a while, Mr. Hammons is a hero and Ms. Cunningham deserves the scorn with which she was heaped. But the news item does not make this clear. It’s quite possible that Ms. Cunningham had a reasonable beef.
Meantime, this story led to one that’s even crazier: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national/oklahoma-man-pleads-guilty-stepfathers-atomic-wedg/nmFjW/
An Oklahoma man pleaded guilty to killing his stepfather via an Atomic Wedgie. Guess it’s time to start insisting on the registration of elastic waistbands.
But AIM,there is no way for a passer-by to know how long a dog has been in a car, and the same with a child. No dog (or child) should be left in a closed car on a hot day. Ever. Period. Even if Elantra planned on coming back before the Aussie cooked, her beef is with herself and nobody else. She should throw herself in jail.
I agree with you, Jack. I see that quite often in Houston.
It is signature significance. There is no way to know how long the person is going to be away from the vehicle and it doesn’t take long for a car to heat up, especially in Houston, where it is not only ridiculously hot, but humid, too. Mr. Hammons is a good man, worthy of commendation for taking action; Ms.Elantra Cunningham, on other hand, is truly deserving of public shaming and ostracism. Her actions demonstrate stupidity, narcissism, cruelty, irresponsibility, carelessness, and callousness.
Amen Mr. Marshall! No excuses for this selfish woman….to insist that this honorable, disabled vet be arrested and he spent the night in jail-and apparently his poor wife has health issues as well. Why didn’t they arrest her instead of just citing her? I’m going to donate to the Gofundme site set up for him and I read that a lawyer stepped up to represent him at no charge. There is also an online petition urging this selfish woman to drop the charges-I just signed it-251 signatures so far…
Spot on Arthur. He should have spent at least 5 minutes observing the situation. I left my chocolate lab in a well cooled car to walk 5 feet to put a book in the library book drop. I turned around to find a screaming woman talking about my dog panting. Sorry, she always panted. She wasn’t in distress.
Why would any dog owner EVER leave all the windows up with their dog in the car?
The 2 or 3 times I left my dog in the car I always leave two of the windows a tad open (even in the typical NW weather where the sun never shines). It also helps with anxiety, as she’s able to sniff all the new and wonderful smells outside.
I will stop at the store and leave the dogs in the car. Too warm and humid – no! Otherwise open the widows a foot. Never more than 10-15 minutes. Just common sense.
I do not own any pets but why would anyone take their pets if they know they will have to leave them in the car? Would it not be safer to leave them at home to avoid situations such as this one?
A tad isn’t enough.
Because it will stay cooler in the car for two minutes if you don’t let the cooled air out and the hot outside air in. That’s why I mentioned in my post observing for 5 minutes.
Seriously. Why on earth do people insist on hauling their dogs around if they KNOW they are going to HAVE to leave them in the frickin’ car? That’s just totally ridiculous. Leave the dog at home if you know you will have to be in and out of the car. Hard to believe this even has to be said.
There were witnesses who had observed the dog in the car and were very concerned before Mr. Hammonds arrived ‘on the scene’. Police had already been called by these witnesses. I would have done exactly what Mr. Hammonds did – break that window for fresh air! Maybe you would have waited for the dog to seize. I have two 15 pound dogs who also “always” pant. However, I notice a difference in their body language when they are feeling exhaustion or ‘overheated’ on a hot day at the park. I have noticed that their tongues have the appearance of hanging out ‘longer’ and a slightly distressed expression on their faces. I get them water and into the shade quickly. 5 feet way? I am hoping you simply calmed the “screaming” woman down and thanked her for her concern about your dog!
Pretty good link. Here is another example of people being classy in Oklahoma.
I wonder if she would have the bartender arrested for calling the police on her? I bet she would if she could.
I believe you need to check your facts on a car heating up. If a car is closed and the temperature outside is more than 75 degrees, the interior of the car will heat in as little as 3 minutes. A person will begin to sweat in 4 minutes. There is no circulation in a closed car, therefore, nothing to stop the heat pounding on the roof, entering the windows and heating the leather and plastic. A small dog like that could die in a heated car in less than 10 minutes.
That was my recollection.
No, Ti, you should check yours.
On a sunny 75 degree day, a closed car can reach temps in the low to mid 90s in about ten minutes. Dogs – and humans – withstand those temperatures just fine. The problem is if the exposure runs longer than that, because the heat goes up the longer the car is unopened..
Let me make clear: I am NOT defending the owner of the car out of hand. I am simply stating that the article doesn’t provide sufficient information to allow the reader to know for certain whether or not the dog was in actual danger.
As has been noted elsewhere, the idea of breaking out car windows to benefit dogs (I haven’t seen any suggesting the same thing for kids, curiously enough) has become a meme – one that positions people who do so as heroes. Such memes imply that we all have license to bust out a window any time we see a dog in a car – and the responses of many in this thread underscores that point.
The gent who busted the windows may, in fact, be a hero for doing so. But because the story doesn’t provide enough information about the actual conditions and circumstances, I don’t know that as fact, and neither do you.
Similarly, the woman who owned the car/dog may deserve every bit of the scorn currently being heaped upon her by the Interwebs lynch mob, Or she may in fact be a caring and skilled animal owner who actually placed the dog at no risk.
And we don’t know that, either.
Would I break a car window to save a dog? Damned right I would – if I knew for CERTAIN that the dog was actually at risk – and that knowledge would have been based on first-hand knowledge of time and weather conditions. Not something I read on the Web.
Actually, the heat reaches 100 degrees in a car within 10 minutes in 75 degree heat during sunshine hours. The heat can also go up much faster, depending on the color and shape of the vehicle, and positioning of the windows. That’s why it is such a useless numbers game. Her car’s black top, black interior, and long sloping front windshield makes that car heat faster. Just don’t leave a dog in a freaking closed car.
@Arthur… you mentioned that you are a dog lover. Are you a dog owner? The mere fact that none of the windows were opened even a crack for some fresh air tells me this woman had absolutely no regard for her dog. “There is no way of KNOWING FOR CERTAIN that a dog is actually AT RISK of seizing or dying in an overheated vehicle..” does the vehicle feel exceedingly hot, as though it has been parked for a while; are the windows cracked at all; is the dog coming to the closed window as if he/she needs air; is he/she panting/body breathing excessively… if you are a dog lover but uncertain that the dog owner is a caring and skilled animal owner, then CALL 911 or ANIMAL CONTROL, and wait and watch the dog to make sure he/she does not die due to a negligent owner.
@Laurie Farnam – have you bothered to actually read any of my posts?
Yes, dog owner many times over, grew up with ’em, worked part-time at an animal hospital in my teens, spent many a year on the board of the local animal shelter and if I cared enough to do so I could get you writs attesting to my skills with dogs from my (dog’s) favorite boarding kennel and a couple of nationally-known dog trainers. You could say I have the bona fides.
The knee-jerk reactions in this thread, including yours, are EXACTLY what I was warning about. This story went viral extremely quickly, and the story left out a very important piece of information: was the dog actually at risk?
As I have said previously – twice, in fact – it may well be that the guy who broke the window was entirely correct in doing so. To arrive at such a decision, he would have observed the vehicle (and dog) for long enough to truly know that this dog was in trouble. I would have done exactly that.
The problem is: we don’t know that that’s what he did. We don’t know if the car was cool and the owner was gone for only five minutes before he broke the window. If that was actually the case, breaking the window was overzealous and, I’d argue, unethical – because while well-meaning, it was not necessary.
Let me spell it out for you one more time, clearly: IF the window was broken after sufficient time to establish that this dog was indeed at risk, the veteran is a hero and the owner of the car (and dog) deserves every bit of scorn the Internet has heaped upon her.
But we don’t know that, because the news item doesn’t say. Meantime, it is wrong to assume that every dog one sees in a car is in danger and gives one license to commit what amounts to vandalism.
Was she a friend of Michael Vick?
I think his parole deal would prevent him from being friends with her.
“This is how society becomes ethical. She is a bad apple. Bad apples must be pointed out, designated as such, and rejected. Usually they distinguish themselves by breaking laws, but not always.”
She is an idiot – She could have come back to the car and said that she was wrong – not thinking – and has learned her lesson – she didn’t. She is the worst of the worst – everybody else is to blame. She is to stupid to have a pet (animal control should have removed the dog from her care) and I hope her boss feels she is too much of a liability to have on the payroll.
Perhaps someone should Ms. Cunningham’s address and phone number here so that interested parties could let her know how they feel about the situation.
No, that’s harassment. I don’t condone that, or encourage it. Hate mail is wrong. Refusing to acknowledge her in the street and workplace is the way to shun people.
“As for the woman who has Hammons arrested for damaging her precious car to save her dog, yechhh, and that’s the nicest thing I can say about her. She is lacking in gratitude, fairness, kindness, compassion, citizenship, and the basic values that allow individuals to contribute positively to a community. She is irresponsible, and she is a materialistic fool who values car windows over life. ”
If she had any one of the afore-mentioned qualities, she would not have left the dog in the car in the first place. There are some people who simply should not be allowed to have pets. She is one.
There’s a meme out there that “thousands of dogs die in parked cars every year,” which is as true as the campus rape claims. Believe me, you can be accosted by any nincompoop (every one of whom has just called the police) in a parking lot even if it’s just a warm spring day, and the windows are down, and you’re in the store four minutes, and a water bowl and bottle are visible, and the dog is bouncing happily in the front seat. From the linked story, I don’t have enough facts to say if this dog was in trouble, but please don’t suspend your critical faculties just because dogs make great companions.
It was over 80. Your point is valid, but this dog was in real peril.
A friend is putting together a fund raising page for Michael. I am also working on getting him a service dog. He had already decided he wanted to adopt a dog, save another life, and now needs to fence his yard. Hopefully people will offer to help with that.
Good for you. He deserves it.
please let us know. many people would like to donate. can anyone set up a change,org petition for charges to be dropped, redirected to the perp and have the dog taken from her?
I have created a petition to have the charges dropped 🙂
Please send details
She is trash they should take her dog away she should b locked in a car with the windows up til she passes out as for the gentleman mr hammons thank u for savind a defenseless animal and from one vet to another thank u for your service
Agreed, she would have left the pip to die a horrible death, HE saved the pup. It is wrong for the the decent human to be arrested,
Elantra Cunningham. Find her social networking. Ungrateful? She should not be allowed to own a dog. It was hot as hell in Ga. (I live in Atlanta.) Oconee an.control needs to hear our message.
Her Facebook page has a picture of her wearing a graduation cap, but yet she is so ignorant! Elantra Cunningham didn’t even put up a car shade or roll down the windows. Or even park in the shade!
Well, not total shade!
To Mr Hammons…the negligent owner wasn’t thankful for what u did, BUT I THANK YOU, YOU ARE A HERO WITH A BEAUTIFUL HEART, YOU’RE A GREAT HUMAN BEING, THANK U FOR SAVING THE LITTLE DOG. To Ms Cunningham…for you and for people like you, I would love to have you sit in a hot car for an hour, windows rolled up and no way for you to get out until your hour was up, lets see how you’d like it. Let the punishment fit the crime. And to all dog owners…when its hot out and I have to run errands, I leave my dog home in the air conditioning where she will be cool and safe, where she doesn’t have to wait for me in a hot car. When I have no errands, then we go to the park for a while and then back home. That’s the best way.
She is black. That makes everyone who criticizes her a racist. Stop the hate!
Crispin……no racism on this site. This is about someone OF ANY COLOR leaving a defenseless animal alone in a hot car. You are in the wrong website.
“She is black. That makes everyone who criticizes her a racist.” I rather think Crispin pays attention to this blog and has a strong sense of irony.
Jill……This is called irony. Please get over yourself.
He busted out multiple windows. The media has not reported this. My information comes straight from the chief of police of Oconee County.
I assumed that, in fact. It’s still in the category of damage that the owner ought to forgive given the circumstances.
I have left my car running with the A/C on when I have to get out for a few minutes. Sometimes I lock it, sometimes I don’t.
A few years back I called the police when I saw a little dog in a closed hot car. I waited a few minutes, frantically looking around for something to bust the window when the college aged girl came out of the store. I tried to talk to her but only got excuses, I tried to offer alternatives, she wouldn’t listen. I stood behind her car for a few minutes to stall her waiting on the cops. I finally got out of her way, she was pulling out when the cops came, I told the officer what happened and he went after her saying he would put the fear of God into her.
I understand that he was released and will probably not face charges. Veterans tend to take action when others dither.