Pit bull euthanized in error, Orange County Animal Services says

Adoption paperwork filed same day not received, officials say


ORLANDO, Fla.Editors Note: In an earlier version  of this story, the accompanying video showed both signs for the the SPCA of Central Florida and Orange County Animal Services. The two facilities are located next door to one another. As the story states, the incident happened at Orange County Animal Services. The sign for the SPCA of Central Florida should not have been shown. Local 6 regrets the error.

Orange County Animal Services says it mistakenly euthanized a 2-year-old pit bull after it appears filed adoption paperwork wasn't received in time of the scheduled euthanization date.

According to a release from OCAS, the owner-surrendered pit bull, named Hershey, was received on August 6.  A week later, the dog received two rescue requests. When both rescue request parties backed out of the adoption, the dog was scheduled to be put down on August 15.

OCAS said the the adoption application was filed at Animal Services, but the "system of checks and balances failed and the dog was euthanized in error."

OCAS spokesperson Diane Summers called the mistake "human error" but wouldn't elaborate exactly what went wrong.

"We have an intricate checks and balances process when it comes to stuff like this," she said. "And one of the steps wasn't fully adhered to and this mistake happened."

"We are terribly sorry for this mistake and our hearts go out to the adopting family," said Dil Luther, Division Manager of Orange County Animal Services. "An occurrence such as this is extremely rare. However, it happened and it's an error we do not take lightly. We have already reinforced our procedures to ensure this does not happen again."

Animal Services receives an average of 23,000 animals annually and 53 dogs and cats in a day.

"There are currently hundreds of other pets eagerly awaiting a forever home in our shelter and it is our sincere hope this unfortunate situation will not deter anyone from adopting one of our pets in the future," said Luther.

OCAS says an investigation is underway to exactly why the dog was mistakenly put down and that the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

Meanwhile, an OCAS doctor will be addressed about a questionable email response to a woman questioning how the dog was accidentally put down.

In the email, Dr. Robert Ridgway wrote, in part, "besides being stupid, I wanted to get dumb emails from people like you that make my day. Emails like yours are so stimulating it makes hard working people want to butter up to you to make you happy -- believe me they will."

Christina Duncan told Local 6, she was "shocked and nobody enjoys being called stupid, but what concerned me more was his attitude about his job."

"I am more concerned about the animals that are in his care and those that will be in his care," said Duncan. "I heard more burnt out civil servant than compassionate care giver."

Duncan said that Dr. Ridgway never apologized to her for the way he worded his response, however, the email sparked an apology from Luther.

Luther emailed Duncan and said, "I would like to extend my apologies to you for that correspondence. Dr. Ridgway works hard daily doing his share to get as many animals into permanent homes as possible. He has invested many years of his professional life to the care of animals and takes this situation very personally."

A spokesperson for OCAS said the situation regarding the email "will be addressed" with Dr. Ridgway, however animal rescuers fear the veterinarian's tone in the email shows he is overworked.

"I'm very concerned because being overworked, doing a lot of surgeries on multiple animals causes mistakes," said Alana Tassi, whose group "Dying To Survive Rescue" works with OCAS to adopt out animals before they are euthanized.

Now, the group hopes the case highlights the need for overhaul at OCAS, including turning the facility into a no-kill shelter.