Dog biting incident shoves DVM into media spotlight

Dog biting incident shoves DVM into media spotlight

Colorado vet receives death threats over city's decision to punish dog
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Apr 01, 2010

Lafayette, Colo. — Sometimes controversy comes in small packages.

In fact, a Colorado dog-biting incident by a miniature Dachshund named Spork turned into an ongoing legal dispute that even the most astute practitioner could not have been prepared to handle.

During a visit to Lafayette, Colo.-based Jasper Animal Hospital, Spork, reportedly under a discernible amount of stress, bit a veterinary technician in the face. Colorado law exempts bites to animal health workers from vicious dog laws, but Lafayette officials opted to assert home rule and deem the 10-year-old Dachshund a threat, according to CBS' KCNC-TV. Soon after the incident, Donald Dodge, DVM and founder of the hospital, was thrust into the media's spotlight. The story hit the Internet and went viral.

"I think that the most important thing that I learned is how quickly things can change and misinformation can spread, given the way technology works today," Dodge says. "With the way that the news is these days, local news seems to be a thing of the past. What gets the ratings, what gets to people's emotions, spreads like wildfire."

The blowback from Spork's bite toward Dodge is palpable, and even includes threats directed at Dodge from people not even in Colorado. He even got a death threat.

"I have made several statements indicating that it is not and never has been my wish to see any harm come to Spork, that he not be kenneled for life and that his guardians not be prosecuted," Dodge says.

While national media attention certainly added fuel to the fire, Dodge and Spork's owners, the Walker family, have used social media to help quell the flames. A Save Spork Facebook page boasts more than 22,000 followers, and Twitter users can follow @SaveSpork for recent updates and media coverage.

Based on the experience, Dodge urges fellow DVMs to "be more tech savvy so that you are more aware of what is going on out there and can take steps to head it off."

Dodge has already taken the issue to a Lafayette City Council meeting, where he requested that several aspects of the city's laws regarding vicious animals be modified. Dodge says it is too early to determine if the incident has had a negative impact on his client base but notes that he will be e-mailing clients and launching a Web site to better communicate the issue at hand.

"I have worked as hard as I know how on this business for more than eight years and to see this happen in a fraction of a second, literally," he says. "I do have a wonderful clientele and staff. The support that I have gotten from them has been what has kept me going."

Meanwhile, a judge ruled in favor of a prosecutor's and defense attorney's request to drop the vicious dog charge against Spork. Spork will be a free dog if he can keep from biting anyone else for six months, the judge ruled March 12.