Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spork, the Doxie Gets a Reprieve

In August of last year, a veterinary technician at  Lafayette, CO vet hospital was bitten by a Dachshund (if Spork *is* a miniature Doxie, get his 17lbs self on a diet stat!). A judge recently ruled that if Spork stays out of trouble for the next six months, then all charges will be dropped.

A couple comments:

On Spork's facebook page, this is what they say about the "bite", "snapped at and bit a veterinarian technician". If you go to the link, you can see a picture of that "snap, bite".

That is a hard, dedicated bite that tore a lot of flesh from the woman's lower face. She had to undergo several plastic surgeries. It's not like Spork just gave her a warning nip. He was just trying to get her to stop whatever she was doing in the only canine way he knew - with his teeth. Some dogs have great bite inhibition; Spork may not.

What Transpired
According to Spork's facebook page, this is what happened, "the vet tech suddenly, and without warning, put her face in his," but in reality, all the vet tech was doing was taking the dog from the owner's hands. There is no evidence she just "stuck her face in his".

It really sounds like the vet tech wanted to prevent another dog bite. And, in at least one report, the dog may have bitten before.

Do I think Spork should be declared vicious? No. Do I think the owners share culpability in what transpired? In some ways, yes. In others, no (mainly that getting bitten is a potential hazard when working at a vet's office).

Here's an example from my own personal life. Mina is dog-reactive on leash. When I take her to the vet and she needs to go in the back for a blood draw or treatment or x-rays or whatever, I always tell the staff, "Hey, my dog is leash reactive". Always. Because this dog is *my* responsibility. Her behavior is *my* responsibility. And hell if I'm going to put someone who doesn't know my dog in a situation that might result in a nip, bite or attack on another animal (Mina has poor follow through, but another dog might not). When I bring Celeste in and she needs to have her ears checked, I warn the staff that she has a history of ear infections and is very sensitive about her ears. I explain she probably won't nip, but she might scream, and if you feel unsafe, muzzle her (which has never happened).

I don't automatically expect vet staff to know my dogs and what they can do. There isn't any evidence that the owners suggested that Spork be muzzled or handled differently because of his objectively extreme level of fear. Further, I think if your dog shows extreme levels of fear when it comes to the vet and he needs to visit the vet on a regular basis, you need to do your due diligence and work to reduce that level of fear through redirection, desensitization, etc. Whenever I'm near my dogs' vet office, I stop in and just get the dogs weighed. They aren't afraid of the vet, but the fact that they go there for regular, non-invasive things help a lot in reducing their sensitivity to the vet. I don't think the owners did that and so, in some ways, they helped to created and enhance their dog's unusually high degree of fear.

I think some members of the dog loving community on the internet handled this poorly. Staff at the vet hospital received death threats. The vet tech received death threats. The city council received death threats. What the frick people? This experience has so horrified the vet tech that she's seeking a whole new profession (that's her choice, I don't think she should). I think the smear campaign against the vet tech was, at best, offensive, at worst, highlights some of our own dog-loving community's neurosis!

The fact is that Lafayette has home rule (Denver successfully campaigned for home rule with their Pit Bull ban, there's precedence here). Unlike state law, they do not exempt vet techs from being able to press charges if bitten or harmed during the course of business. This vet tech had every legal right to pursue criminal charges. I don't think she should have, because I am not convinced Spork poses a significant risk to the public (I could be wrong, he could rip out a kid's eye in the next 6-months and then won't the dog community be all shame-faced).

Am I glad Spork is getting a reprieve? Yes! I don't think he should be labeled a vicious dog for what transpired.

Do I think the owners, most of the internet dog community handled this well? No! I think the dog owner set up their dog for failure, that they tried to play down what was actually a significant bite, and that they misrepresented how the bite really happened.

Do I think the vet tech handled this well? No. I do not believe she should have attempted to pursue criminal charges. Civil charges? Yeah, I'd be cool with that, that's her business and keeps it out of the court system. I think she really felt she was doing the "right thing" and that that was a misguided feeling.

May Spork live long and prosper...without ripping off anyone else's lips, please!


Retrieverman said...

The only dog that routinely bit me was my grandmother's mini smooth doxie. She was a nasty dog, and I'm still a little afraid of mini smooth-haired dachshunds.

I'm not afraid of pit bulls. I never have been. I guess I see too many well-behaved pit bulls to be prejudiced against them.

Ashley (the mom), Dixie (the Catahoula) and sometimes Lola (the Pit Bull) said...

My problem with the whole Spork case is that if this were a pit bull, very few people would be defending him. But because he is a fat doxie with a cute name, the world rallies around him.