Group protests animal treatment in Orlando

Advocates demand answers amid abuse allegations

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Forever Home Animal Rescue is protesting what it calls recent incidences of poor treatment of animals by Orange County Animal Services.

An online PETA petition calls for support for animal advocates to bring up their concerns at Tuesday's county commission meeting. Almost 400 people have signed the petition.

The demand for changes within OCAS comes after two incidents in which animals were accidentally injured or killed last week.

A representative for animal services admitted staff accidentally euthanized a pit bull named Hershey right before a family had a chance to adopt him. She also said last week that a groomer mistakenly cut off the eyelids of a dog that had come in to be cleaned up. The injuries blinded the dog, which the representative said had fur so matted and filthy the groomer could not tell where his facial features were.

OCAS advisory board member Debbie Turner presented their concerns to county commissioners on Tuesday. Turner said it's become clear staff are overwhelmed and changes are needed in order to allow for better care for animals.

George Ralls, head of Health Services, which oversees the shelter, admits changes must be made and that he'll put together a report in 10-12 weeks.

"I think upper management has lost sight of what they need to do," Turner said.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said hiring more veterinarians should help to get better care at the shelters. It's not clear when that hiring would take place.

Animal rights groups are also calling for discipline against Dr. Robert Ridgway, the staff veterinarian. Some are upset after Ridgway responded to an email questioning the pit bull's euthanasia. In the email, Ridgway used sarcasm and even called the woman's concerns "dumb."

An OCAS representative said the doctor would be "addressed" but declined to elaborate further. It's unclear if Ridgway has received any discipline.

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