Orange County dog finds his forever family after spending 215 days in shelter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Good news from Orange County Animal Services and an update on a story we brought to you last week.

Tonka, a dog who spent more than 200 days at the OCAS shelter, was adopted by the Vega family on Friday, which also was #NationalAdoptionDay.

Tonka’s tale is a long one that has a nice holiday ending.

He was surrendered to the shelter back in April.

Since then, he’s been adopted and returned twice. Through no fault of his own, he’s tallied 215 days in the shelter’s care.

READ: World’s largest White Castle breaks ground in Orlando

Tonka’s story begins back in April, when Orange County Animal Services responded to a call for assistance due to a dog being reported abandoned in the backyard of a Conway area home.

The animal services officer made contact with Tonka’s owner, who no longer lived at the property.

The shelter said the owner moved and was struggling to find housing for the dog and ultimately opted to surrender the dog during that interaction.

READ: Park hopping returns to Walt Disney World in January

Tonka spent the next six months waiting in the shelter before someone sparked interest in adopting him.

Orange County Animal Services said Tonka’s life in his new home was short-lived. He was returned a week later. He was adopted again at the start of November but returned only hours later as the landlord said the dog was not welcome to stay.

“Tonka is a handsome boy who can definitely turn on the charm,” said Diane Summers, manager for Orange County Animal Services. “We’ve struggled to find that lasting match for him because he has shown that he needs to be the only dog in the home, a factor that drastically limits the pool of interested adopters, and he has heartworm disease, a treatable condition, but one that can come with a stigma due to lack of understanding.”

READ: Cat missing 3 years reunited with owner after walking into hospital

Orange County Animal Services said Tonka’s heartworm disease treatment costs are sponsored by a local civil engineering group, John B. Webb & Associates. To date, the engineering group has offered to cover heartworm disease treatment costs for 81 shelter dogs, so far spending $16,450 on the medical care of adopted dogs.

“Earlier this year we made a desperate plea to the community looking for a home for Rocket who, like Tonka, had been with us in excess of 200 days,” said Summers. “The response from local media and on social media was overwhelming, and it helped land Rocket his forever home within a day. We are hoping Tonka can be just as fortunate; he is definitely just as deserving.”

READ: Dog at animal shelter for nearly 2 years adopted

Anyone interested in adopting a shelter dog or cat is encouraged to email the shelter at for more information.

Katlyn Brieskorn,

Katlyn Brieskorn is a Digital Assignment Editor at WFTV. She joined Channel 9 in July 2019.