Residents rally to appeal decision to euthanize ‘trainable’ dog

ST. GEORGE — Residents of Ivins and Santa Clara are working on their second appeal to save a young dog who has been ordered euthanized, even after being deemed trainable.

Clyde lays in mud, Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Leslie Balliet, St. George News

Clyde is a 2-year-old American Staffordshire-American Bulldog mix who is currently sitting on death row at the no-kill Ivins Animal Shelter.

A number of community members, including the dog’s owners, past owners, trainers and former shelter managers, are rallying to save Clyde after their first appeal was denied, even though he was deemed “not vicious.”

A local vicious animal review board, headed by Santa Clara-Ivins Police Chief Bob Flowers, initially made the decision to euthanize Clyde after he bit three people.

After the first two bites, the vicious animal review board convened to assess the dog’s temperament and analyze the situation in which each of the bites occurred. In their initial meeting, the board determined that Clyde was not vicious and gave the owner a set of guidelines to follow to prevent him from biting again. The guidelines included wearing a muzzle when outside, wearing a different type of leash and remaining indoors whenever possible.

On the day of the third bite, Clyde was not wearing his muzzle while walking alongside his owner, who claims he had ordered a muzzle for the dog, but that it had not yet arrived on the day of the incident, Leslie Balliet, who rescued Clyde’s mom and adopted him to his current owners, said

As they were walking, a neighbor and her dog approached Clyde and his owner. In an effort to ensure nothing would happen, Clyde’s owner pulled him tight to his side, causing Clyde to become anxious, Balliet said. After some time, the neighbor began to turn away from Clyde and his owner, and Clyde reached out and bit her.

Clyde plays with a toy, Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Leslie Balliet, St. George News

After the third reported biting incident, the vicious animal review board met again to discuss Clyde’s situation in a hearing that was closed to the public and to the trainers who had been asked to assess the dog.

Ivins’ animal policy states that the shelter will not kill any animal that can be rehabilitated and adopted, according to ordinance 2010-07. After two biting incidents, public safety officials can impound a dog while they await the decision from the vicious animal review board, which assesses animals on a case-by-case basis.

Keith Hightower, who has been professionally training and assessing dogs for over 18 years, was tasked with determining whether Clyde could be trained and how his owner might go about reforming his behavior.

“Clyde is big and exuberant, and he’s friendly to a fault,” she told St. George News. “I found him to be very rude in that he wanted to jump on me and lick me. The dog just needed better manners. I saw absolutely nothing that made me think the dog was vicious or aggressive.”

Flowers said that in his time as police chief of the Santa Clara-Ivins area, there have been only a handful of dogs that he has ordered to be euthanized, despite the high number of dog bite incidents. Flowers had reviewed Clyde’s case earlier — before the last bite — and made the decision not to recommend euthanasia because neither bite had caused injury. The third bite, however, required stitches, which prompted him to believe the dog was vicious.

The victim of the third bite however, only reported the incident because the medical technicians at the hospital told her she had to. Before the initial hearing, the woman shared her recommendation with the shelter’s manager and asked that Clyde not be euthanized, stating that the incident should not warrant a death sentence.

Another woman who lives in Ivins has vouched for Clyde’s character by sharing her encounter with the dog. One day while jogging, she heard “thunderous” running and hot breath on her heels. She stopped and turned around to see Clyde sitting behind her, snorting. Hightower said this account is not considered a vicious encounter because a dangerous animal would not have stopped when the jogger did.

Even though two separate trainers advised the board that Clyde is not vicious and could be trained, the board voted to order the dog euthanized.

Clyde interacts with neighborhood dogs, Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Leslie Balliet, St. George News

After the board’s decision, Balliet and Clyde’s owner teamed up to appeal the decision to euthanize him to an administrative board with a civil judge. During the hearing, the judge, the defendants and Flowers came to an agreement that one of the trainers, who had previously asked to adopt and train the dog himself, could take Clyde and the euthanasia order would be rescinded.

Ivins City Attorney Dale Coulam, however, argued that liability would still be placed on the city and refused to agree to the terms. Because of Coulam’s decision, the judge ruled to uphold the order to euthanize Clyde.

Because of the ruling, in accordance with ordinance 2010-07, the director of the vicious animal review board or his designee shall euthanize the dog “as soon as possible.”

Since the judge’s decision to uphold the order, Balliet and Clyde’s owner have been working to appeal to a higher court on his behalf.

Balliet told St. George News the fault lies with the owner who failed to properly train Clyde, not with the dog, who was just overexcited.

“I believe they are punishing the owner by punishing the dog,” he said. “It is a completely unjustifiable decision, and this young dog, that has been described as people-friendly and dog-friendly by the trainers, is going to pay the consequences.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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