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York County's animal care policy draws criticism after dog's death

The dog was brought into the York County Animal Shelter in York shortly before 9 a.m. Nov. 28.

She had been hit by a car and had road burns, a punctured tongue and perhaps a broken pelvis, the staff veterinarian said. The dog suffered from hypothermia.

A picture taken of the pup by the animal shelter staff shows blood around her mouth, barely sitting up, her eyes barely open. The dog was put on a heating pad and given painkillers.

Four days later, the pup died from the injuries.

The sad story has dog rescuers questioning the veterinary care and policies of the York County Animal Shelter. A rescuer who saw the dog on the shelter's Web site asked to take the Yorkie-Chihuahua mix to her private veterinarian and was refused by the shelter.

"If she would have had veterinary care, she probably could have been saved," said Cherlyn Tumlin, who works with Yorkie Haven Rescue in Charlotte.

York County requires unidentified animals to stay at the shelter for five days before they are eligible for adoption, giving owners time to retrieve them.

The shelter did not give an exception to the policy.

"It's absolutely deplorable to leave an animal like that without treatment," said Michelle Belaustegui of Lexington, N.C., vice president of Yorkie Haven Rescue.

David Harmon, the York County public works director whose department oversees the shelter, said the county couldn't release the dog to the rescuers.

"With the county ordinance being what it is, there's not a mechanism in there that would have allowed us to do that," Harmon said.

But Tumlin said other shelters in North Carolina have worked with her group to get dogs care before they are scheduled to be released. A Charlotte-Mecklenburg animal control official said they sometimes allow animals to go with rescuers as foster dogs or cats while they get treatment.

She also questioned the veterinary care provided the dog. But, in an internal memo, the veterinarian, William Diamanduros, said he treated the dog as best he could.

"This dog was treated to the best of our ability, even though with the subnormal temperature and extent of her injuries we did not hold out much hope," he wrote.

Diamanduros works 20 to 24 hours a week, the shelter's only veterinary service, Harmon said. Many of those hours are used to perform spaying and neutering.

Yorkie Haven Rescue has since put a memorial to the dog on its Web site, using the photo taken by Animal Control. Instead of using the background of bloody, rusted metal she was sitting on and leaning against, they've put her in front of clouds and a rainbow.

Tumlin said she had planned to take the dog to her personal veterinarian the afternoon the dog came in.

"We're hoping we can get the word out and change that policy," she said.

10,000

Approximate number of animals taken in each year by York County Animal Control.

7,500

Approximate number of animals euthanized each year.

6

Average number of animals that die without euthanization at the York County Animal Shelter per month.

20-24

Veterinary care hours each week at the animal shelter.

-- The Charlotte Observer

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