Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Press Releases in the Spork Case

Snippet from a press release (pdf) from Donald Dodge, owner of Jasper Animal Hospital - the vet clinic Spork is scared of:
The bite was serious. Our technician required immediate medical attention. [...] When an animal bites a person who seeks medical care, it is normal procedure for the hospital to alert animal control officers. This is what happened here.
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.
He goes on to say that just because the tech is pressing charges doesn't mean the clinic wants the owners prosecuted or the dog killed. Maybe they thought "pressing charges" meant that everyone has tea and a biscuit and goes home early, I don't know.

Response from the lawyer for Spork's owners:
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.

Of all the points made in my previous post and the comments, I am most curious about this last bit. The bite happened in August 2009. Since the law specifically exempts veterinary staff from filing charges related to dog bites, why is this case still being pursued? To my mind, the fact that it was ever even opened was a mistake. The city should have told the tech from day one, "You are exempt and can not press charges". Forcing the owners to spend all this time worrying and all their savings on lawyers is totally ridiculous. And the Vet is supporting these shenanigans? Even knowing there is no legal standing for these charges whatsoever?

Hey Lafayette pet owners: Jasper Animal Hospital doesn't know how to handle scared pets and if you go there, they may give your name and address to the city and file charges against you. Maybe there's another vet clinic in town? Or, if Lafayette is determined to invoke "home rule" to avoid compliance with this sensible state law, I'd say it would be well worth it to go to a vet clinic outside the city.


There is also an e-mail posted online that is purported to be from the city of Lafayette regarding the case. The city thinks we should all be grateful they don't have breed bans and didn't seize Spork immediately.


Heather Houlahan said...

Wow. Vet speaks with forked tongue.

The technician went to urgent care? Wow. Doc-in-a-Box really screams I'm gonna die to me.

Now, mandated reporting for animal bites is important so that public health authorities can make sure that rabies protocols are followed.

I had it happen to a dog I was fostering. Took him in for his neuter, and a tech decided to give him a dental as a Good Deed. As he was coming out of anesthesia, he sheared off the tip of her thumb. Not a "bite" in any behavioral sense, but you gotta follow the quarantine rules for rabies. I had a conversation with the county public health nurse, and that was that.

Nobody charged me with harboring a vicious dog, or tried to have him killed.

Anyway, that mandated public health reporting is the thing that creates a public record of the bite. Not pressing criminal charges.


mb. said...

we had a foster dog that bit clean thru my husbands palm (the foster was a very recently neutered adult male Boston Terrier & there were aggression problems before this; in the end he jumped a gate to "dominate" one of our dogs & my husband got in the way). Anyway, Andrew needed stitches (& got them at Urgent Care-that is what the emergency room is called here & maybe where this happened as well) & a case file was automatically opened-no one had to "press charges"; the investigation (in part to make sure we had not mistreated him) was mandated. Because we could not effectively quarantine him, the dog went to a home that COULD keep him separate from other animals & stayed there til his dad got back from Iraq in November.

Because of this incident, animal control asked for (& got ) current paperwork on all of our dogs & we got follow-up phone calls to make sure they were fine following the foster dog's quarantine period. All of this I think is perfectly reasonable, honestly. I also know that if I had not had that paperwork at hand for every dog in the house (including the foster dog) this would have not gone so well as it did.

Reading between the lines I would guess the tech's decision to pursue the matter was not done with the vets consent. I would bet money the tech is no longer employed as a tech at that vet clinic. I might even speculate the real issue here is between the tech & the vet & the bite is being used as leverage.

Pibble said...

I'm wondering if the tech is looking for a monetary settlement because he/she doesn't have adequate insurance or is just a jerk. It's a stretch (not the jerk part) but I really can't justify this entire situation.

Heather Houlahan said...

Getting money out of the owner of a dog that bites you is an entirely different matter from prosecuting them for owning a "dangerous" dog.

One is a civil matter, the other criminal. The former does not require the latter.

And insurance companies will tell a vet tech to get bent -- she is has explicitly assumed the risk, and her employer is assumed to be providing her with insurance to cover her actual damages.

Nichole said...

I searched a bit to see if I could make a small donation to their legal bills. This is ridiculous. Maybe I'll contact their attorney.

Anonymous said...

Time to sue the clinic. And maybe the city.