CO Vet’s Office FAIL

The city of Lafayette, CO has declared a 10 year old dog named “Spork” to be vicious and filed charges against the owners. Based upon your knowledge of these type of cases, have a go at these multiple guess questions:

What specifically did this “vicious dog” do?

  • Kill livestock?
  • Bite a neighborhood kid?
  • Attack someone’s pet?

How about the owners – what are they accused of doing?

  • Allowing their dog to roam loose?
  • Leaving the dog on a chain for his entire life?
  • Failing to supervise their dog around a toddler?

If you guessed “None of the Above” (oops, I forgot to include that choice), you are correct. The owners of the vicious Spork (yeah I’m loving that name) are accused of taking their Miniature Dachshund to the Vet for routine care. Like many dogs, Spork is scared at the Vet’s office. Very scared. He shakes. He loses control of his bowels. Vets see dogs like this regularly and usually know, or should know, that with these type of dogs, the owner can never hold the dog during examination. These dogs are not in a balanced state of mind during their Vet visits. And when an owner holds a dog, the owner becomes a physical extension of the dog. If that dog is already in an unbalanced state, the potential for a bite is very high.

So when the owner was told at the Vet visit to hold her dog and the technician put her face up to Spork’s, he bit the technician’s chin. State law in CO exempts veterinary workers from filing charges regarding dog bites. Somehow, the city found out about the incident (I think we can safely guess the owners did not contact the city about it) and served the owners with a citation. The owners hired a lawyer and are going to trial in April in an effort to save their dog:

The Walkers’ attorney says the charges should be dismissed. “It’ll put a scare, a fear into people with animals, that they can’t bring their dogs or cats to health care facilities in the city of Lafayette for fear of criminal charges and fear their family friend will be euthanized,” says Jennifer Edwards of the Animal Law Center.

The Walkers say they’ll do anything to make sure their dog isn’t euthanized. “Not everyone would spend their life savings protecting a 10-year-old dog, but we feel we need to.”

I am hesitant to make generalizations about biting dogs but I’ll go out on a limb here: Little dogs bite. Unlike big dogs, they can not physically resist something that makes them feel uncomfortable. They scream when they’re panicked and they bite as a last resort. Those are their defenses in a world where everyone is bigger than they are and they can be picked up, held down, or inadvertently knocked over and trampled at any moment. Anyone who works in a Vet’s office should know that a little dog presents a bite risk while at the office. Even more so for a dog who’s scared. And still more for one who is overly scared and being held in the arms of his owner as you stick your face into his/their personal space.

From the information I’ve read about this incident, it seems like the Vet’s office mishandled the situation which resulted in a staff member being bitten. Instead of using it as a learning experience, they (I’m guessing) reported the bite to the city, causing the owners terrible emotional and financial hardship. Ultimately, the dog may be locked up or killed.

At the Vets’ offices I worked in (many moons ago), we had a box full of muzzles of all sizes and we placed a muzzle on any dog who was “questionable”. Has Spork’s veterinary office heard of these things? When I take my Chihuahua mix to the Vet’s, I bring along her muzzle from home. She’s never bitten anyone and I hope to keep it that way. I’d rather be safe than sorry – especially if sorry means the city might take my dog. Although I doubt my Vet would ever mishandle a situation so badly and then try to get authorities to kill my dog over their mistakes.

Spork does not deserve to be punished. Neither do his owners. I feel for them.

The idea that Spork is vicious is something Spork’s owners have a hard time accepting. “Every night I tuck him into bed. If he doesn’t have a blanket on him, he starts crying, I have to get up and make sure he’s covered,” Kelly Walker, Spork’s owner says.

I hope that the city will come to their senses and drop this whole thing. I bet there are probably actual irresponsible owners in Lafayette who deserve citations. And I hope that Spork gets to spend many more nights in his bed, covered up by his blankie.

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