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Spork gets reprieve, vet tech speaks out


It’s amazing, when you think about it, how much one little dog can shake up the whole world.

We see it over and over again: with Buddy, the dog dragged through Colorado National Monument;  Pepper, the dog thrown off a bridge in Lithuania, Baxter, the paralyzed therapy dog, Baltic, the dog rescued from an ice floe in the Baltic Sea.

All are dogs that — through the deeds they’ve done, the abuse they’ve suffered or the dilemmas they’re in — have captured the public imagination, big time, with an assist from the news media, bloggers, and social networks like Facebook.

It’s a mostly wonderful thing when a dog rises from plain old pooch to international headline.

Most recently, there was Spork, a dachshund leading a quiet life in Lafayette, Colo., until he bit the face of a veterinary technician during a dental appointment.

Spork, because the vet tech and the city decided to pursue the case, appeared headed toward classification as a “vicious dog” — a label his owners feared could have meant a death sentence, kennel confinement or wearing a muzzle the rest of his life.

As Spork’s owners, Tim and Kelly Walker, fought back, the 10-year-old dachshund drew national media coverage. A Facebook page created on his behalf drew 23,759 fans. A “Save Spork!” YouTube video began circulating. Bloggers freely opined, most concluding that the vet tech mishandled Spork’s visit.

On Friday, Spork got a reprieve.

A Lafayette Municipal Court judge granted the dog a 6-month deferred prosecution. If Spork stays out of trouble, all charges will be dropped, ABC7 News reported.

It was the sort of the story that brought out the best in dog lovers, and sometimes the worst.

Since the Aug. 14 incident at Jasper Animal Hospital in Lafayette, the vet clinic and Lafayette city council members received death threats, and veterinary technician Allyson Stone, who had to undergo plastic surgery, has been roundly derided in Internet forums — so much so that, between the critics and her new-found fears, she’s opted to pursue a different profession.

In court Friday, testimony revealed veterinary technician Stone lost inch-wide chunks from her upper and lower lips. Stone told police Spork lunged without warning as she was taking the dog from Kelly Walker for a routine dental cleaning.

Stone said she had used scissors to trim excess plastic from an identification collar she’d placed around the dog’s neck. But she had put the scissors down when she reached for the dog.

Here are excerpts from an interview Stone had with the Boulder Daily Camera after the ruling :

No matter what you think of those remarks, that Spork has been the recipient of so much more human compassion than the human he bit is a little disturbing — at least to me. We all like a distinct hero and a clear cut villain, but real life’s not always that black and white.  The bigger question,  in this particular case, than whose side you are on is, Why must one take a side in the first place?


Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time March 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm

You’re right. We shouldn’t have to choose. It’s not difficult to sympathize with someone whose face has been disfigured enough to have plastic surgery. It looks like a painful, life-altering injury. The problem is that it’s somewhat of an occupational hazard for people who work with animals. Instead of condemning a previously mild-mannered animal to death, why not work on improving policies and procedures for working with animals in situations where they’re injured or frightened? In other words, why was it necessary to complain to the animal control people?

Even when you are giving an animal first aid–at an accident or injury scene while waiting for help–the first rule is to find a means of protecting yourself from being bitten. The dog doesn’t do this because it’s vicious. It’s a natural reaction to fear and pain.

Of course the “ga-ga doggie” people emerge from the weeds howling for revenge and retribution. It’s not helpful. What would be helpful would be to learn from this experience and find better ways to help sick and injured dogs.

Comment from Starla
Time March 13, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Well said, Anne’n’Spencer . My heart goes out to Vet Tech Allyson Stone. She was no doubt doing this job because she loved animals. It’s a horrible accident for her, for Sporks owners & for the Veterinary Practice. I wish everyone involved the very best possible outcome. Sometimes an accident is just that…an accident. No villians here…just unfortunate victims of circumstance.

Comment from laura
Time March 15, 2010 at 8:21 am

While it’s terrible that she was injured, it is an occupational hazard. If she had won and Spork was declared vicious, people might think twice about bringing their dogs to the vet. And that’s unacceptable. Some dogs become scared and unsure at the vet’s office, and a vet tech should know to protect herself from bites. Simply taking the dog’s leash instead of reaching your face in could’ve prevented the whole disaster.

Comment from Vet Tech
Time May 20, 2010 at 10:27 am

I love happy endings. There are way too many dogs that are completely misunderstood, and a majority of them aren’t as lucky as Spork.