Commission pledges changes after Orange County Animal Services mistakenly puts down dog

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Animal activists flooded an Orange County commission meeting Tuesday, demanding the firing of a vet after Hershey the dog was mistakenly put down.

The chairman of the animal services advisory board gave Eyewitness News a long list Wednesday of things he wants fixed.

Officials said changes have already been implemented at the shelter, but a letter lays out even more recommendations to protect the animals.

No animal is turned away and 1,600 end up at Orange County Animal Services every month.

"The euthanasia process is a sad responsibility of our animal services staff. It's not something we want to do but inevitably something we have to do," said Orange County Director of Health Services Dr. George Ralls.

Animal services said new measures are in place to make sure mistakes, like Hershey's death, don't happen.

Staff has been directed to better monitor computer updates before euthanizing an animal, officials said.

Two employees instead of one will put an animal down, OCAS said.

"I know given 50 animals a day, this is likely to occur and its likely to reoccur cause we are human, but we need to be better humans," said Paul Wean, advisory board chairman.

That's why the advisory panel, chaired by Wean, wants more.

Wean wants better adoption hours, including nights and weekends, and county ordinances that requires pet owners to spay or neuter their animals.

Some of the suggestions are simple, like using a colored collar on dogs that are set to be adopted so that the dog doesn't get mistakenly euthanized.

Another suggestion is building better relationships with the rescue groups who gave commissioners an earful on Tuesday.

"I believe the commissioners get it and I'm hoping that they'll do something," said Wean.

Another suggestion is putting stickers on kennel cards of the dogs about to be adopted.

Orange County is in the middle of an extensive review of Animal Services, which should be completed in October.

The advisory panel is also recommending that the county replace the veterinarian who wrote an emotionally charged email to a concerned citizen.

Eyewitness News looked at Dr. Robert Ridgeway's personnel file and found he's been written up before for using inappropriate language during a heated discussion with a client at the shelter.

A county spokesperson said, "The best way to characterize the situation at this moment is: there will be appropriate action taken regarding the Dr. Ridgway email. The exact nature and details of that action are still being worked out."