Tweets misinterpreted, says Colorado state employee

1:35 PM, Sep 28, 2010   |    comments
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By Chris Vanderveen, KUSA

LAKEWOOD - Scott Dutcher says on occasion he's been accused of being "about as subtle as a brick."

It's what was so enticing about Twitter, the head of the Colorado Animal Protection Bureau says. It allowed him to say what was on his mind in 140 characters or less. He also now knows his lack of subtlety is likely what has gotten him into some trouble as of late.

"Did I do things wrong? Could I have done things differently? Absolutely," Dutcher said on Monday.

Dutcher was profiled last week on 9NEWS because of his now quite controversial personal Twitter account. Under the name "Skinnyhorse," he authored nearly 4700 Tweets over the course of a year and a half. Most of those tweets were apolitical, but some were clearly not.

He called himself an "unapologetic American" who was "anti-animal rights." In one tweet he urged his followers to "take our country back" and in another he sarcastically called on people to "eat more polar bears."

He also went after people he deemed to be too much in favor of animal rights.

"Success over animal rights is the best revenge!" he wrote. "Meat is in higher demand, more entries, spectators in rodeo, etc..."

Those kinds of tweets brought forward the wrath of many people in favor of animal rights. An online petition is currently encouraging people to sign their names in order to try to get him fired. There's even a Facebook page devoted to getting him out of the job.

The local head of the Humane Society of the United States called his behavior "appalling."

Dutcher says the recent reaction to his tweets has been frustrating considering his position.

"I've spent my entire career here at the Department of Agriculture helping thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of animals," he told 9NEWS.

He believes it is critically important to draw a distinction between "animal rights" and "animal welfare." The latter he's never had a problem with, he says.

"I think that anyone who owns animals has a moral obligation to take care of those animals," he said. "That's nonnegotiable. Anyone who has an animal has to take care of it."

Should an owner fall short, he says, that person should be open to prosecution. Because of that, he said, he doesn't believe that he should have to leave his position.

"I just have this overwhelming passion for [helping] animals," he said. "Animals are my life, they just are."

Somehow that feeling, he says, has been lost in the online translation.

The hate emails are also clearly getting to him.

"I underestimated how difficult this would be, not only for myself, but for my family," he said. "I honestly didn't think I was doing anything wrong for that matter at the time I was doing it."

His bosses, while admonishing Dutcher for tweeting frequently at work, have not raised any issues with the content of his tweets.

Jim Miller, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, said last week that he supported Dutcher. Miller declined to say if Dutcher has been punished as a result of the tweets. It's also unclear just how often Dutcher tweeted at home or while on the job.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture recently sent out an Email telling employees that it would be reevaluating the department's position on social networking. In the meantime, the Email told employees to seek approval before logging on.

Dutcher says he now intends to keep his feelings more to himself.

"What I would have done differently is to try to make a better distinction between my personal life and my professional life, not comingle the two," he said.



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