Discussions at a recent budget workshop indicate York County officials were listening to complaints about procedures at the county's animal shelter and that changes are likely.
A couple of incidents at the shelter in recent months enraged local animal lovers and raised questions about rules there. In December, a Yorkshire Terrier that had been hit by a car was brought to the shelter suffering from hypothermia, road burns, a punctured tongue and possible broken bones.
Members of Yorkie Haven Rescue in Charlotte, an animal rescue group, offered to take responsibility for the dog, but county rules required unidentified animals to stay at the shelter for five days before they are eligible for adoption. After officials refused to bend the rules, the dog died.
In January, a picture of an injured dog was accidentally posted on the county's Web site. While pictures of animals brought to the shelter routinely are posted on the site so owners can identify them, this dog was pictured with a bloody gash down its side.
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The dog was stitched up as soon as it arrived and then was taken to a veterinarian for further care before returning to the shelter. But the picture of the bloody dog fired up animal lovers and motivated another protest of the rules at the shelter.
While the complaints centered on inflexible protocols at the shelter, the fundamental problem may have been the lack of a full-time veterinarian to care for injured animals. The only veterinary care provided at the shelter is from a vet who works 20 to 24 hours a week there.
This year's budget proposal addresses that problem. County officials have suggested adding a full-time veterinarian and an additional veterinary technician to the county's budget, which would allow for animal care seven days a week.
The animal control department, under new supervisor Chris Peninger, also has requested money to vaccinate all animals when they come into the facility to prevent the spread of diseases. The county then could raise adoption fees to cover the extra expense.
Both proposals make sense. The shelter handled 10,000 animals in 2007, and even a full-time veterinarian no doubt would have his hands full dealing with injuries and illnesses.
Vaccinating animals is a good precautionary way to reduce the chance that a diseased animal will set off a mini-epidemic within the shelter. We suspect that people seeking to adopt a pet would be happy to pay the vaccination cost if it helps ensure they get a healthier animal.
We commend county officials for being responsive to complaints from the public. All these proposals seem likely to make care for animals at the shelter more humane.