HOWL Colorado

Vet responds to Spork controversy

[large thumbnail url=”vet-responds-to-spork-controversy” filename=”news” year=”2010″ month=”02″ day=”24″] [thumbnail icon url=”vet-responds-to-spork-controversy” filename=”news” year=”2010″ month=”02″ day=”24″] Spork, a 10-year-old dachshund, faces either euthanasia or kenneling for the rest of his life after biting a vet tech. The founder, and chief vet, from the Jasper Animal Hospital releases a statement.

The city of Lafayette has invoked “Home Rule” to use local city laws to prosecute the owners of Spork, declaring him as vicious, after he bit the face of a vet technician at Jasper Animal Hospital.

Colorado state law exempts bites received by professionals who work closely with animals from  prosecution because of circumstances which can lead up to an attack by an animal. Vets, their technicians, groomers and others, assume the risk of being bitten when they deal with animals in what can be stressful situations. Many such professionals utilize muzzles to ensure both their own safety and that of the dog.

HOWLColorado is unaware of what the procedures and processes for Jasper Animal Hospital are, and therefore cannot report whether the vet tech involved had followed them or not.

However, Dr. Donald Dodge, Veterinarian and Founder, Jasper Animal Hospital, released the following statement:

There have been some media reports about a tragic incident that took place at the Jasper Animal Hospital last August. As the chief veterinarian at Jasper, I wanted to clarify some of the facts and to tell you how we feel about these events.

Jasper is a place, and I am a person, devoted to the welfare of animals and their guardians. We have operated on that principle for eight years, and I have nothing but concern for the animal and the technician involved in this situation.

We had treated the dog, a dachshund named Spork, in the past, and he had never before exhibited any aggressive behavior.

On August 14, 2009, Spork came into our hospital for a dental procedure. On that morning Spork, though visibly nervous (as he had been before in the clinic), did not show any signs of aggression (as had also previously been the case). However, when our veterinary technician reached over to take Spork from his guardian, Spork suddenly bit the technician in the face.

The bite was serious. Our technician required immediate medical attention. She was treated at Boulder Community Hospital Urgent Care and by a plastic surgeon. When an animal bites a person who seeks medical care, it is normal procedure for the hospital to alert animal control officers. That is what happened here. Boulder Community Hospital contacted Lafayette Animal Control, and an animal control officer responded to the call.

The veterinary technician then made an individual decision to pursue charges. I supported that decision, because when an animal causes serious injury to a person, there should be a public record of that fact in case there are future incidents involving that animal. This did not mean that Jasper wished to see the animal put at risk or the guardians prosecuted.

Jasper Animal Hospital has not advocated for, or participated in any way in subsequent decisions by the City of Lafayette to prosecute Spork’s guardians. We remain very worried about everyone concerned – the dog, his guardians, and the injured technician. We consider this incident a tragedy, and we sincerely wish the best for everyone concerned, Spork in particular.

To those who have been supportive to the Jasper Animal Hospital I would like to say that we have heard you and sincerely appreciate your concern.

The Animal Law Center, which is representing Tim and Kelly Walker, the owners of Spork, responded shortly after with a statement of their own.

Wheat Ridge, Colo – We, at The Animal Law Center, are providing a statement, on behalf of our clients, Tim and Kelly Walker, in response to the statement made by Dr. Donald Dodge, on behalf of himself and Jasper Animal Hospital earlier today.

At no time have the Walkers ever sought to undermine Jasper Animal Hospital or the hospital’s devotion to the welfare of animals and their guardians. The Walkers have provided nothing other than facts in legally protecting their dog Spork against the criminal charges that were sought by a veterinary technician, employed and supported by the Jasper Animal Hospital. In fact, it was the outstanding reputation of the clinic that drew them to it in the first place. They don’t take issue with their reputation or the many good services they have provided. However, as with any veterinary clinic, Jasper Animal Hospital is responsible for the hiring, training and supervision of its employees. Further they are responsible for the development and implementation of hospital procedures to protect their clients, their animal patients, and their employees.

While the Walkers are perplexed by the City of Lafayette’s aggressive pursuit of the charges against them, they are also distressed by the veterinary technician’s desire to further this case. While they have been very upset and concerned about the injuries suffered by the tech, the Walkers are surprised that a trained veterinary professional would put an animal in her care in this position. In the police reports, it is clear other clinic employees were aware that Spork was distressed at the time of his visit. He was shaking and defecating in his owner’s arms. Given the visible state of Spork’s anguish, the Walkers are shocked that this veterinary technician, given her years of experience, would put her face anywhere close to Spork’s face. What is even more curious to the Walkers is why a trained tech would aggressively urge criminal charges in the matter when veterinary technicians are trained to handle animals, and there is an assumed risk that comes with the job. Colorado State Statute §18-9-204.5(6)(b) specifically exempts veterinary health care workers for this very reason.

To conclude, the Walkers have no issue with the Jasper Animal Hospital at this time. However, they are concerned with the hospital’s support of the technician’s decision in her pursuit of prosecution and the implications this case may have on other pet owners when they take their pets to a veterinarian or other animal service provider in the city of Lafayette, due to the laws and their interpretation by the City of Lafayette.

You can also read a statement from the city of Lafayette, which was published on the Daily Camera website.

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