Some animal lovers say York County is long overdue in evaluating its animal shelter procedures.
Animal activists across the country were outraged when a photo of a white Pekingese with a bloody gash down its side, attached to an animal control pole, was posted on York County Animal Control's Web site earlier this month.
The photograph was taken while the dog sat on the tailgate of a county pickup truck. It was placed online as part of protocol to help owners find their missing animals.
The shelter has been scrutinized for its treatment of animals by rescue groups in the past, but the most recent incident has prompted county staff to take notice.
Janet Richardson, who has saved thousands of animals at Richardson Rescue Animal Shelter in York since 2003, said she often deals with issues regarding animal control.
"Dogs are being dumped there by people that live here," she said. "The community dictates what will be done at animal control. They saw the picture and finally said, 'Oh, my goodness.'"
The month before, a Yorkshire terrier died from what some call questionable care after a Yorkie rescue group tried to take it to a veterinarian. The shelter would not release the dog before its five-day waiting period, a policy that prevents the shelter from giving away a lost pet before its owner has a chance to claim it.
County Manager Jim Baker wrote letters to those who were outraged after the Yorkshire terrier died. He said the county staff will recommend changes to animal shelter policies -- including releasing animals to receive care before waiting five days -- to the council.
"We're always planning for the future," Council Chairman Buddy Motz said. "We need to get the ordinances to where they need to be, examine the fees we're charging and other things to pay for the needs we have."
Another thing to consider, Motz said, is whether or not to build a full-time veterinarian into the budget. Right now, the shelter is staffed by a part-time animal doctor.
The injured dog featured on York County's Web site, named Cuddles, received stitches when she arrived at the shelter and was taken to a veterinarian before returning to the shelter.
The photo -- which Richardson called "graphic," saying it shouldn't have been taken -- somehow went up at yorkcountygov.com with all the other animals. It has been removed.
"The picture should not have been put up there," said Jerry Wilson, assistant director of York County public works, which oversees the shelter. "The picture makes her look worse than she actually was."
Cuddles is recovering at Richardson Rescue, but a costly heartworm treatment stands between her and recovery, Richardson said.
"She's doing pretty well," Richardson said. "But she won't be adopted to a home with children with all that activity. She'll get her stitches out soon, and we'll do the heartworm treatment if we can afford it."
Richardson and other animal rescue groups and activists in the area await the county's recommendations for the shelter.
"When will animal control take action and determine what the procedure is going to be for sick and injured animals?" Richardson asked. "The shelter doesn't have the equipment and manpower to treat sick dogs -- X-ray machines and bloodwork. This has been happening at animal control for years and years."
Baker said the county staff will meet with animal supporters and rescue groups in the next month to discuss what changes need to be made.
Those interested in helping can go to www.richardsonrescue.org or call (803) 684-6865.