An open letter from Beth Clifton to:
Matthew Bershadker, president, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals;
Julie Castle, president, Best Friends Animal Society;
Kitty Block, president, Humane Society of the United States
Dear Matthew, Julie, & Kitty:
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this letter. My name is Beth Clifton. I am the wife of ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton. Briefly, I am a former Miami Beach police officer, animal control officer, elementary school teacher, and veterinary technician.
I am writing in response to your roles, and the roles of your organizations, in rejecting the cries of thousands of politically voiceless animal and human victims, to instead take the side of the bullies, both human and animal, in the recent municipal election in Springfield, Missouri.
I was a pit bull rescuer & advocate
In 2011 I rescued, fostered, adopted and loved a pit bull puppy who I named Trooper. Three years later, it became necessary to euthanize him because of serious aggression issues.
Until that point I promoted, advocated, and publicly defended pit bulls, as well as volunteering with a local breed-specific pit bull rescue.
As a veterinary technician at a high volume, low cost spay/neuter clinic, I acquired a great deal of direct experience with pit bull-type dogs. In fact, I and another employee were the unofficial clinic pit bull response team when fights and other behavioral problems occurred.
Why pit bulls will break your heart
You can read about my life and experience with raising Trooper in this essay that I wrote and published with the hope that I might help others who were experiencing similar problems or were considering the choice of a pit bull as a family pet: Why pit bulls will break your heart.
As a former law enforcement officer and ACO, I place a great deal of value on public safety. Based on my extensive experience with pit bulls, I came to recognize as clearly evident that these dogs were unique, in that they all seemed to share certain problematic personality traits and behaviors, and a very dangerous degree of instability.
As a veterinary technician I handled hundreds of pit bulls and found them to be consistently nervous and fearful. This behavior in any dog could predictably lead to a dangerous situation for both the vet tech and the veterinarian, but pit bulls are large, strong, and tenacious dogs, with documented history of having caused more serious and fatal injuries than all other dog types combined, not just recently but in every 10-year time frame since 1833.
No pit bull would have been harmed
Had Question 1 passed in Springfield, Missouri, on April 7, 2018, not even one pit bull who had a home would have lost it. No pit bull would have been harmed. Every pit bull legally residing in Springfield would still have that home.
The sole effect of passing Question 1 would have been to restrain the breeding and importation of pit bulls, who are already occupying so much space in the Springfield animal shelters as to severely limit the ability of those shelters to serve other dogs in need.
Ever-present risk to the innocent
Question 1 would merely have allowed the Springfield pit bull population to decline through attrition, thereby reducing the ever-present risk to the animals and humans of Springfield from pit bulls who even momentarily escape from their humans’ control––like the two pit bulls who on July 18, 2017 either jumped or broke through a fence to attack Evy and Lane Atwell, ages four and three, respectively, as they played in a wading pool under supervision of their mother, Christin Atwell, in their own back yard. All three were injured, suffering at least 15 bites among them.
This was the incident leading to the city council resolution that eventually put Question 1 on the ballot.
Three deaths in 10 days
Just during the week of August 1-7, 2018, while ASPCA personnel were in Springfield urging the defeat of Question 1, a two-year-old boy was fatally mauled and his mother was badly injured by a pit bull in Philadelphia.
A four-year-old girl suffered multiple head injuries, including a skull fracture, inflicted by a recently adopted pit bull in Miamisburg, Ohio.
An 18-month-old girl also suffered multiple head injuries in Riverside, California, after being attacked by the same pit bull who mauled another child in March 2016.
A 57-year-old woman was killed by her own pit bull in Chicago.
Today a 66-year-old woman was killed by two pit bulls who escaped from their home in Lake Tillery, North Carolina.
Other animals are most frequent victims
Other animals, however, are the most frequent victims of pit bulls, at the rate of hundreds of deaths per week: far more than the numbers who are harmed in acts of direct intentional cruelty. Very few of these attacks are in any way provoked by any behavior presenting an actual threat to the pit bull. Seldom does the victim animal have even a chance of escaping injury.
I recently reviewed a video posted on Facebook of a pit bull who attacked a horse, a frequent occurrence, but in this case the video showed the entire incident. As the dog clamped down on the horse’s mouth and held on with his teeth, the horse was rendered defenseless.
The horse could not kick the dog. The horse could not run. All the horse could do was stand there as the dog ripped the horse’s face apart.
A horse, whose main defense against predators is to flee, could not out-run a pit bull who attacked without provocation or warning.
You have a responsibility to the public
Matthew, Julie, & Kitty, I have written to the three of you because you head the three largest humane organizations in the United States. Your influence upon the treatment and safety of animals is evident, but you also have a responsibility to the public, and to the domestic animals who are victims of attacks by other domestic animals.
As a person who cares deeply for all animals and humans, I am publicly requesting that you review and reverse your present policies of promoting pit bull acquisition and proliferation, and that you, as leaders of the humane movement, cease turning a blind eye to the suffering of the thousands of innocent men, women and children, and many tens of thousands of pets and farmed animals who continue to be victimized by pit bulls.
The facts scream aloud
I am further requesting that you support any legislation to prevent more births of pit bull-type dogs, such as Question 1 in Springfield, Missouri, and acknowledge the necessity of stopping pit bull proliferation, which eventually and ultimately causes the suffering of the dogs themselves.
The facts scream aloud. To ignore the facts is a dereliction of duty to your supporters and the animals for whom you advocate and seek to protect.