The Spork saga has apparently come to an end, thanks to an agreement between Lafayette prosecutors and the ten-year-old dachshund's owners, Tim and Kelly Walker, that was formalized during a midday hearing.
The gist: The vicious-dog citation against Spork has been deferred. If no other accusations against the dog surface over the course of the next six months, the matter will be dropped. Likewise, the charges will go away if the Lafayette city council decides to amend its animal-control ordinance to exempt veterinary personnel, as the state regulations do. However, if Spork bites again within six months, he'll be held accountable for the damage done to vet tech Allyson Stone, who also appeared at today's hearing, in addition to any new incident.
Below, we get reactions from Jennifer Edwards, attorney for the Walkers, and Kerry Bensman, a Lafayette city councilman who's been critical of the way the media has covered the Spork story:
"There's an agreement for a deferred prosecution, but there's no plea," Edwards says. "Our clients are still not guilty in the eyes of the law, and six months from today, if Spork has no further dangerous dog citations and so forth, the case will be completely dismissed. And if the city council gets together and looks over this ordinance and decides they'd like to change it and decriminalize what Spork did, the case will also be dismissed."
How did the deal come together mere days after all parties publicly suggested that the next opportunity for resolution would come during a previously scheduled April 20 court date?
"This was talked about last week, before the judge ever ruled on our motion to dismiss," Edwards reveals. "We'd been talking to the prosecutor about this possibility, but we wanted the judge to rule very neutrally. After the judge made his ruling, we proceeded with what the prosecution had brought forth. And the idea of a deferred prosecution was theirs. They called us to talk about it."
Regarding Stone's testimony, Edwards says, "She stated on the record that she signed off on the agreement, but I think this is the direction things were going to go regardless. And she did say she actively pursued the charges against Spork."
For that reason, Edwards has discouraged the Walkers from making a formal apology to Stone: "It ties the Walkers' hands, because even now, there are pending criminal charges. That doesn't dismiss their feelings about how sorry they are about the situation. They are. But we would advise them as their attorneys not to offer any apologies."
Edwards says the Walkers "are pleased Spork is no longer at risk in this case, and they're very confident there will be no further issues and the case will be dismissed either on Spork's own nature or because the city council revisited the ordinance and adjusted it appropriately. But they do feel no charge should ever have been filed, and they've suffered greatly as a result of the filing."
At the same time, however, Edwards feels the controversy "has raised a lot of concern and sensitivity about the policies and practices of animal-service providers in certain jurisdictions. It reveals to the public that there are jurisdictions where animals are at risk. For example, there's a requirement in every jurisdiction that you need to bring your dog in to get a rabies vaccination. But they're not required to provide you with any protection should your dog bite or react in any way. And this requirement applies to all dogs: aggressive dogs, playful dogs, dogs with higher risk behavior, sweet dogs. It goes across the gamut."
Bensman, for his part, saw the hearing as a spectacle. "What a scene," he says. "It breaks my heart."
He noted the presence of crews from at least three TV stations, as well as additional print reporters, creating an old-fashioned media circus, in his view. But he was pleased that Stone got to speak her piece in public, and he feels she did so eloquently. "She said she'd been a tech for fifteen years and she knew her way around aggressive dogs," he notes. "The bottom line is, she said the dog showed no signs of aggressive behavior when she was attending to it -- and then the dog attacked."
Less laudable from Bensman's perspective was testimony by Tim that Spork had never bitten anyone before. Bensman received an e-mail from someone claiming to have been a former co-worker of Tim's -- and to have felt the dog's teeth years ago.
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When asked how he feels about the agreement, Bensman declines to comment, pointing out that he hasn't had access to all the information the judge drew upon. "But what I do believe," he says, "is that there was no need for a media frenzy and a misinformation campaign. And I wish there'd been some classic investigative reporting to get more information about what actually happened.
"Lafayette has always been an animal-friendly town," he goes on. "We went to great lengths to create an ordinance that would cover all eventualities, and we have the best dog park in Boulder County. For them to take out their frustration on vets who've spent their lives caring for animals, and basically launching a media frenzy on them, I just don't think that's fair."
Original item, 9:39 a.m.: The case of Spork, a ten-year-old dachshund given a vicious dog citation after biting a vet tech (and possibly swallowing her lips) has been through a lot of twists and turns, including a judge's refusal to dismiss charges against the dog over conflicts between state law and the ordinance in his hometown of Lafayette.
This last decision, reached just days ago, seemed to mean that the case wouldn't be resolved until an April 20 trial. But moments ago, a hearing was announced in regard to a possible agreement to resolve the controversy. It's scheduled to take place at 11:30 a.m. Once a resolution is reached, we'll update this blog.