Uniquely Dangerous

Non-Fiction - True Crime
420 Pages
Reviewed on 06/06/2018
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

Carreen Maloney has worked as an on-staff reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, Ottawa Citizen and Business in Vancouver. Her writing has also appeared in magazines such as Modern Dog and Animal Sheltering, a publication produced by the Humane Society of United States. She lives in New Orleans.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Uniquely Dangerous: A True Story is a nonfiction book written by Carreen Maloney. On April 14, 2010, Douglas Spink woke to the commotion raised by a 19-member strong SWAT team as they pounded on the door of his small cabin. His Reese Hill location should have been impregnable, and he was quite careful in timing the rare occasions when he went out to get provisions for himself, his dogs and his horses. Doug, who had been a successful tech entrepreneur and stud farm owner, was on probation for having participated as a mule in a drug smuggling ring. His Reese Hill property, a remote 22-acre spread, was tucked away in Northern Washington, just a few miles from the Canadian border. When he opened the door, he found thirty law enforcement officers waiting for him. Some were from the US Probation Department; others the FBI and US Marshals Service, still others were local: the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and the Whatcom Humane Society. Maloney first learned of Doug Spink’s arrest through text messages she had received from the Whatcom Humane Society, where she was well-known as a volunteer writer for their animal rescue efforts. She had been advised that a number of animals had been taken from a “bestiality farm.” Maloney had no idea what those texts actually meant. Were those animals being tortured? Were they sex slaves? As someone who loved animals, she couldn’t help but worry; as a reporter, she wanted to learn more.

I’m also an animal lover and am privileged to have two wonderful dogs as animal companions. And while I’ve encountered some poorly reported articles online about drunks attacking their neighbors’ dogs, I knew next to nothing about zoophilia, and those people whose sexual attraction is to animals. Uniquely Dangerous: A True Story was enlightening, disturbing and ultimately thought-provoking. Her dedication to “the animals who are killed by humans when their secret lives with zoos are discovered” resonated quite strongly with me. Maloney’s story flows swiftly and fluently. Her writing kept me enthralled as she handled the thorny issues surrounding the taboo of zoophilia and the irrational, culturally ingrained responses of society.

Maloney addresses zoophilia in a compassionate and professional way, sharing interviews with other zoos as well as those details Doug Spink disclosed during their interviews. Like her, I was infinitely saddened when Doug’s dogs all seemed destined to first be separated from him and then killed, and had trouble understanding how the anger and ignorance expressed toward Spink even reached out to Maloney for her role in interviewing the man. Yes, zoophilia is something most people are totally ignorant about and taboos about it are strongly etched into our culture, despite the mythological traditions and the continuing popularity of the story, Beauty and the Beast. Whatever one’s feeling about zoophilia, Doug Spink’s story is a cautionary tale that shows all too clearly how easily one can lose one’s constitutional protections once one has crossed over that all-too-illusory line. I began reading this book filled with preconceived and sensationalistic notions about people who had sexual relations with animals and finished having learned more about what it is to be human. Uniquely Dangerous is most highly recommended.

Malcolm J. Brenner

Every so often a non-fiction book threatens to expose the common wisdom about its subject for a misconception. I can think of only a few books that have had this profound effect on me. One was The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-authored by Alex Haley; another was Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver’s short but damning tale of incarceration, Soul on Ice.

I mention these two books because they come most readily to mind, not because I want to make race an issue. The subject of Uniquely Dangerous is an Anglo man who rose to wealth and renown while concealing a dark secret from everyone around him, including those he loved.

His name was Doug Spink, and if that sounds vaguely familiar, you have a long memory for the perverse and obscure. It hearkens back to a 2010 raid by a multi-agency taskforce of 30 people on a tiny cabin in Whatcom County, Washington, to bring Spink in for probation violations relating to an earlier arrest for drug smuggling.

But that wasn’t what made the headlines. What got the big, bold typeface was the announcement by authorities that they had busted a “bestiality farm” run by Spink, where clients could be serviced by dogs or horses he had on the property (including a champion show jumper). The allegations grew even weirder when local animal rescuers announced that they have saved several rats covered with petroleum jelly. One “client,” an English tourist, was arrested with Spink.

Carreen Maloney was an experienced print journalist and a supporter of the Whatcom County animal shelter that received Spink’s animals. While the headlines about bestiality repulsed her, she wondered about a lot of things. Why hadn’t any of the reporters who covered the story tried to interview Spink to get his side? Weren’t journalists supposed to be fair? What happened to the animals, especially seven dogs and the mice, that went to the county shelter? And what made a successful businessman like Spink, who worked in cutting-edge encryption technology that even puzzled the Feds, drop everything to live like a hermit and indulge a sexual orientation many people found revolting?

Thus began an eight-year odyssey for Maloney, but her toil and research has paid off in a remarkable tale that reads like a mystery story but has the ring of truth. We find out that the 2010 raid was only the beginning of Spink’s troubles with the justice system, which seemed more concerned about ending his vocal support for his alternative sexuality than about punishing him for a non-violent crime.

Maloney has accumulated a huge volume of material on Spink’s dual life, a high-tech wizard by day and a zoophile by night, and distilled it to its most essential parts. The story plunges backward and forward in time, exploring Spink’s past, his family life, and the marriage that ended in failure when he came out as a zoophile, and a gay one at that. But Maloney handles these transitions with great skill, even weaving in her own narrative, as a tragic personal loss sets her on the road to telling Spink’s story.

Along the way, Maloney also takes sidetracks into other elements of the hidden zoo culture, showing us how it covertly appears in art, advertising, entertainment, religion, as an enduring theme of a group that’s uncomfortable with its own species. She uses Spink’s torment at the hands of federal prosecutors as a lens through which to view society’s loathing of human-animal sex, and she courageously asks the question, why? Why such a visceral reaction?

If you are a zoophile, or know someone who is, you owe to yourself to buy Uniquely Dangerous, because seldom has writing on this inflammatory topic been so lucid, so even-handed and well-documented. If you are interested in the psychology of human sexual deviance, this book will provide useful insights. Similarly, those concerned with loss of personal freedoms and the erosion of privacy will find a story that illustrates their worst fears. If you like tales of personal will and courage in the face of overwhelming odds, you’ll cheer Spink’s outspoken defiance. And if you simply admire a riveting piece of journalism about a taboo subject, Maloney won’t disappoint you.

The portrait that emerges is of a complex, troubled man who always seems to find himself athwart the tides of life, whether he’s fighting his ex-fiancée for his beloved jumping horse or telling a federal court judge exactly how he feels. In the end, you may not like Doug Spink, but you might come to admire him. In a world that demands conformity, he refused to bend. Uniquely Dangerous is the balance sheet of what that stand has cost him.