Two from rescue group cited for animal cruelty

WARNER ROBINS — Two women have been cited for animal cruelty after police say several dogs they were trying to adopt out died April 2 inside a vehicle on one of Middle Georgia’s hottest days this year.

Yvonne Worthington, 45, of Fort Valley, and her daughter, 22-year-old Jessica Spence, of Warner Robins, were cited for nine counts of cruelty to animals by the Warner Robins Police Department.

Warner Robins police officials wrote in a news release that Worthington and Spence, working for Animal Lovers’ Rescue of Middle Georgia, took nine dogs to PetSmart at 2730 Watson Blvd. so they could be placed for adoption. The dogs were left in the back of a truck while the women went inside, the release stated. Temperatures that day reached 86 degrees, National Weather Service officials said.

When they returned, according to the release, four puppies and an adult dog were found dead inside. The rest were taken to Perry Animal Hospital, where another was euthanized. The Department of Agriculture has been informed of the incident because Worthington is a licensed rescuer, Warner Robins police spokeswoman Tabitha Pugh said.

Laura Garner, a spokeswoman for Animal Lovers’ Rescue, said Worthington was told she had been cited in the incident because she was the owner of the rescue group, which has been in service about a year. Spence, Garner said, was told to open the camper shell on the back of her truck, where the animals were being kept.

“She got busy with setup (for the adoptions) and got sidetracked,” Garner said.

Worthington and others on the site did “everything possible” to revive the dogs, which were stricken with heat stroke, Garner said. Spence has since been relieved of her duties for the animal rescue, which has helped about 1,000 dogs in the past year. The three surviving dogs, Dizzy, Bunny and Peanut, were treated and released back to the care of Animal Lovers’ Rescue, Garner said.

“This was a very unfortunate accident,” Garner said. “We don’t want ALR to be viewed as having anyone on staff, regardless of relationships, who would neglect the animals.”

She said Worthington was devastated by the incident. The group also has halted intake of new animals while they work to review their processes.

“She can’t get the vision out of her head from last week,” Garner said. “This is her passion. All she ever wanted to do was help.”

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.