By Elizabeth Evans, The York Dispatch
The York County SPCA's executive director can't fathom why no one alerted authorities that a pit bull was being starved to death.
The future is still uncertain for the 3- to 4-year-old pit bull, found dumped in York City's Bantz Park on Monday evening, Smith said. SPCA staffers have named her Ava.
"This dog was so near death and, honestly, she still is," Smith said. "(Tuesday) night, I was really worried about her. She was just so listless. ... But (Wednesday) morning, she was sitting up, bright and alert, wagging her tail and happy to see us. ... So today is a hopeful day."
Still, Smith said, Ava's condition is touch-and-go.
"Has it gone too far? Has it affected her organs? I guess time will tell," she said. "You never know how far is too far gone."
Anguished eyes: Smith is trying to be optimistic about Ava's chances.
"She has very telling eyes," she said on Wednesday. "Yesterday I saw fear and anguish, but today I saw a little glimmer of hope - and of recognition. There was a tail wag, and she was as happy to see us today as we were to see her."
Ava weighs 27 pounds, primarily skin and bones. She's also suffering from significant pressure sores.
"We feel very strongly this dog was confined somewhere. Someone was purposely neglecting to give this dog water and sustenance."
It would have taken weeks for Ava's body to wither to this point, according to Smith -- weeks of what amounted to torture for the dog.
Smith said Ava's former owner is facing misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges, and urged anyone with information about the case to call the SPCA. "All complaints are treated as anonymous here," she said. "A lot of times I think people don't report (abuse) because of fear. The way people retaliate these days? I can understand that fear."
2 dogs, 1 park: Ava was found at the southeast end of Bantz Park, near the intersection of West College and Belvidere avenues, Smith said. It's the same park where, in January 2010, a school girl found and saved a badly abused dog that had been thrown in a trash can.
In Ava's case, someone saw her in the park and notified authorities. Police picked her up, and she was eventually taken to the Animal Emergency Clinic, then transferred to the SPCA shelter, Smith said.
"Whoever was responsible for getting help for this dog literally saved her life," Smith said. "She was very close to death ... and probably would've died if she had gone 24 more hours without care.
"This dog did not get up on Monday evening and run away from home -- she could barely walk," Smith said. "So I believe she was dumped in Bantz Park."
Never gets easier: Seeing dogs as badly neglected as Ava never gets easier, according to Smith.
"Every time we get a case like this, we think we can't be surprised anymore by what we see," she said. "But we are still shocked by the cold and callous behavior we see."
Ava's former owner could have dropped her off at the SPCA's Emigsville shelter, rather than starve her, Smith said.
If Ava can physically recover, and if her temperament remains good, she could be ready to be adopted in as little as three months, according to Smith.
"Right now, Ava seems very sweet," she said.
Update July 5, 2011 - The following article is by Andrew Shaw, The York Dispatch:
Abused pit bull Ava's condition improving
Ava, the pit bull found nearly starved to death in York City last week, has two great pieces of news now going for her.
"We're very pleased with how she's coming along," Smith said. "If she had any underlying health issues, they would have presented themselves by now."
A woman found the 3- to 4-year-old pit bull dumped in York City's Bantz Park last week, possibly just a day or so away from starving to death and suffering from pressure sores. SPCA workers named her Ava.
Smith said Ava isn't quite in the clear yet, and still isn't much bigger than the skin-and-bones 27 pounds she weighed at the time
of her discovery. Her last weigh-in was about 28 pounds. As for the other good news, Ava might be one of the most popular dogs on Facebook right now.
As of Tuesday afternoon, it had more than 4,800 fans and was gaining more every hour from around the world. The page is not affiliated with the SPCA, and Smith said she can hardly believe how popular the page has become.
The Justice for Ava owners are keeping fans updated on Ava's condition and are urging anyone with information on Ava's owner to call the SPCA at 764-6109, ext. 127. The person responsible for Ava is facing a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge.
Smith said she's also received some donations to help cover the cost for Ava's care, "which are greatly appreciated."
To make a donation or more learn about the SPCA, visit http://www.ycspca.org/
Update August 17, 2011 - The following article is by Elizabeth Evans, The York Dispatch:
Starved pit bull ready for new home
Ava, a pit bull that nearly starved to death before being dumped in a York City park, has gained more than just weight since being rescued by the York County SPCA about seven weeks ago.
In the days after first meeting Ava, Smith remarked about the dog's soulful eyes -- and how those eyes initially told a story of anguish and fear.
"I don't see any sadness in her anymore," Smith said on Tuesday. "It seems now she's always excited and happy, and ready to go. That's very rewarding for us."
Ava weighed just 27 pounds when she came to the SPCA's Emigsville shelter on June 27 from Bantz Park. On Tuesday afternoon, she weighed 42 pounds, Smith said.
Forever home: Next up for Ava? Hopefully, a real home with a loving family.
"We are now taking adoption applications for Ava," Smith said. "And as of (Monday) night, she was officially enrolled in our Canine Good Citizen training program."
Although she's very playful and friendly, Ava is a bit high-strung and needs guardians who will provide her with the significant exercise she needs, plus calm, consistent discipline.
"She's still a little nervous sometimes when people approach her quickly and she's not expecting it," Smith said. "We're looking for somebody with pit bull experience ... someone who is assertive and knowledgeable."
Ava would do fine in a home with larger dogs, but she's a bit iffy with small dogs and cats, according to Smith.
"She would probably do OK with older kids, maybe young teens and up," Smith said. "This kennel environment is not providing her with everything she needs. Adequate exercise will help her tremendously."
Smith feels confident Ava will flourish in a stable home.
Celebrity appearance: The York County SPCA recently wrapped up its pit bull training and awareness program for York City youths, and Ava made a guest appearance at the last class, Smith said.
"A couple of the kids in the program had been asking about Ava," Smith said. "So on our last visit, on Aug. 5, we decided to take Ava as the finale of the program."
The youths were thrilled, and crowded around Ava waiting for the chance to pet her and have their pictures taken with her, Smith said.
"Ava did so great with the kids ... jumping around and happy and healthy," Smith said.
It was also a great way to end the program, she said, because Ava is a perfect example of the positive changes that can be made by being a voice for animals.
"It was a great day for Ava as well," Smith said. "I think she had a good time."
Reward: A $500 reward is still being offered for tips that lead to the arrest of the person who neglected Ava. Tipsters can remain anonymous, Smith said.
"We do have a good lead at this time that we are pursuing," she said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: To adopt Ava, visit the York County SPCA's Emigsville shelter at 3159 Susquehanna Trail North; to make a donation or for information on hours and adoption applications, go to www.ycspca.org. Anyone with information about who neglected Ava is urged to call Animal Humane Office Nicole Boyer at 764-6109, ext. 127.