Thursday, March 4, 2010
The story of Spork, the "vicious" wiener dog.
In this episode:
Pet Joke of the Week: Part III of the Doggy Dictionary
Headline Pet News & Personal Comment: The story of Spork the "vicious" wiener dog.
Transcript of personal comment from this episode of The Web-DVM:
Tonight’s episode is dedicated to Spork, the vicious wiener dog. As reported by dogster.com, a veterinary technician working at Jasper Animal Hospital in Lafayette, Colorado, was bitten in the chin by a 17 pound, 10 year old Dachshund while working with him. As a result, this technician has deemed this dog vicious, and pressed charges with the local authorities, a move that could end up resulting in Spork being put to sleep. Absolutely devastated, Spork’s owners are fighting this charge leveled against their dog, and are even willing to move out of town or even out of state if necessary, in order to save their dog.
This comes as a great surprise to me, because as animal care professionals, we generally accept the occupational risk of the possibility of injury from animals. To deem an animal vicious because of its actions at the vet, a place where it is approached and handled by perfect strangers who do unpleasant things to them – examine them, give them injections, trim their nails, etc - is also not really fair.
In the case of Spork, dogster.com has video footage of happy little Spork frolicking with, and licking and kissing his owners who clearly adore him. Unfortunately, I could not post that video here at the risk of copyright infringement, but I will post a link to the dogster article on our blog. That video left me having some trouble viewing this dog as a mennace to society.
Now, I was not present when this technician was bitten, and I can sympathize when someone gets injured by an unhappy animal patient. I certainly have been bitten quite a few times and clearly understand how unpleasant, frightening, and painful that can be. On the other hand, I know enough about animals to know that something was amiss with Spork’s case.
In practice, there are two types of pets that pose a danger to us, those pets that are outwardly aggressive, and those that are fear aggressive, that it, bite only when they are scared and feel threatened. The aggressive dogs, typically let you know right from the get go that they will bite, usually carrying on and growling when we are still several feet from the animal. For this reason, precautions can usually be taken to avoid getting injured, by having the owner apply a muzzle prior to the dog being approached or handled, and we certainly are not going to allow ourselves to leave our faces or appendage any where near the pet’s mouth.
The fear aggressive dogs are the ones that can get you by surprise, since they do not show any aggression until they feel threatened, by which time it could be too late for us. Since this veterinary technician in Spork’s case let her face near enough to the dog to be bitten, I suspect that Spork must fall into the category of fear aggressive dog.
Based on this, there are two points that do not sit well with me. First, to condemn a fear aggressive dog who acts out of fear against a person that he feels threatened by (let’s face it, veterinarians and vet techs can seem threatening to some of our patients), as a vicious dog that is a danger to society and must be put to sleep, is just not a fair assessment. In any other setting, this dog may not act anything like this, and it certainly did not appear so in the dogster video of Spork.
Second, this technician, who I again sympathize with for having gotten hurt, likely did something wrong to put herself in the position to get hurt. From my first day of work as 19 year old kennel boy, it was drummed into my brain that we do not ever allow our faces to be within striking distance of the face of an animal, even one we have trusted for years. As wonderful as any pet can seem, they are animals who can act unpredictably when feeling threatened.
From a handling standpoint, we do not ever work on animals without a professional veterinary assistant trained in proper restraint techniques to keep the person working on the animal safe if unpredictable behavior occurs. Owners are not ever permitted to hold their own animals as we examine and treat them, and the animals certainly are not left loose as we examine or treat them.
Taking these simple precautions makes injury from animals actually an exceedingly rare event in most veterinary clinics, even with 10%-15% of animal patients having to be muzzled for display of aggression, whether outright or fear based. In fact, when we do get bitten, in most cases it was the result of someone braking proper restraint or handling protocol that put them in that danger in the first place. As such, I have no doubt that the vet tech bitten by Spork had that occur in part as a result of breaking basic animal handling safety measures. I do no know how else can you explain a person getting bitten by a shrimpy little wiener dog.
To this technician and the veterinary hospital she works for, I would say this: stop! This dog will never again be in your clinic, rest assured. Even if these people oculd overlook you pressing charges against their dog, you still reserve the right to refuse treatment of this dog. If you take take it further than this and go through with pressing charges that this dog is a danger to society and the law agrees with you and puts this dog to sleep, you risk being the cause of tragedy for Spork’s family, as well as heeping a mountain of bad press on yourselves.
If any of you would like to help save Spork, I encourage you to visit the dogster link from our blog at webdvm.blogspot.com. Again, you may see the short video of Spork in action with a brief interview with his owners, as well as a petition link where you can lend your support to his cause.
That is our show for this Thursday, March 4, 2010. Please help us to continue our discussion at our blog at webdvm.blogspot.com. As always, we choose comments posted there or from our friends at YouTube or the HubPages for inclusion in our live broadcast, Sunday nights at 9:00 PM EST at BlogTV.com. Thank you for watching.
Click here for Dogster story and video of Spork
Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website Web-DVM.net.