Update July 16, 2012
Interviews on Nando Brown's radio show from 14. July 2012 regarding the court case against Lennox. Guest speakers include Sarah Fisher (dog behavior expert), Victoria Stilwell (dog behavior expert), Peter Tallack (prosecution witness), and Jim Crosby (dog behavior expert), with Sandra Lightfoot (dog warden) phoning in to comment. Click here to listen to the radio show.
Update July 12, 2012
A video of one of Lennox's evaluations is now circulating. Click here to watch the video.
Update July 11, 2012
Belfast City Council has published the following on their website http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/news/news.asp?id=3109:
Dangerous dog is put to sleep following final court decision
11 July 2012
Belfast City Council confirmed today that the dog Lennox, an illegal pit-bull terrier type, has been humanely put to sleep. This was in accordance with the Order of the County Court which was affirmed by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.
Whilst there is an exemption scheme to which dogs of this type (pit-bull terrier type) may be admitted as an alternative to destruction, there were no such measures that could be applied in this case that would address the concerns relating to public safety. The Council`s expert described the dog as one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had come across.
Over the past two years, Council officials have been subjected to a sustained campaign of abuse including threats of violence and death threats. The Council has been in ongoing contact with the PSNI in relation to that.
The Council regrets that the court action was necessary but would emphasise that the safety of the public remains its key priority.
For further information, please refer media enquiries to:
028 9027 0221
The following statement was published on the Official Facebook Page for the Save Lennox Campaign:
Lennox was murdered at 7am this morning, the family weren't allowed to say goodbye, his family were refused to be allowed to be by his side.
Love you pup, you will forever be remembered for your bravery, the amazing people you brought together, and for those you helped.
You are loved sweet boy, run free, we will meet again someday, you will always be alive in the hearts of many who fought for you.
No longer at the hands of those that cause you pain.
Update July 10, 2012
First Minister Mr Robinson intervened and called on the council to reconsider. He said: "As a dog lover I am very unhappy with the outcome of this case." Robinson also tweeted "Spoke to Lord Mayor about Lennox. Suggested BCC should seriously look at re-homing option. Why exercise the Order if there's an alternative?"
However, Belfast City Council issued the following statement today:
"The Council acknowledges the good will on the part of a significant number of people who would wish to have the dog Lennox spared from being humanely put to sleep. The Council has a duty which it performs reluctantly in order to ensure public safety. Re-homing will not deal with the issues in this case- the dog has been found to be unpredictable and dangerous by experts. That view is shared by the courts and the dog is now the subject of an Order by the courts. It would be reckless and irresponsible in this particular case for the council to simply move the dog to some other place where it would pose the same danger to others.
The Council has received a significant number of intimidating and threatening messages in the last number of days. These have been referred to PSNI"
Senior Media Relations Officer
Belfast City Council
A member of the Barnes family also posted this statement:
"for those of you who do not know me, I am Craigs sister , Carolines sister in law (Lennox owner) ....I can confirm that NO amnesty has been granted, we still need to keep up the pressure, please share this CORRECT info, THANKYOU all for your support"
Lennox’s 28 day amnesty ends at midnight, July 10, 2012 BST, which means that the Belfast City Council (BCC) can euthanize Lennox anytime afterwards at their discretion.
Lennox's family has issued this statement today:
"We would like to take this opportunity to thank you all again for your messages of support. We are sorry to say at the present time Belfast city council seem to be intent on killing our boy. Despite previous assurances otherwise, we have been denied the opportunity to say goodbye. We have also been told that we cannot collect his body and bring Len home. We have been informed however that we will receive "some" ashes in the mail."
According to the official Save Lennox Twitter account, Lennox will be destroyed at 7am BST (2am EST).
Update July 7, 2012
Demonstrators from as far away as New York came to Belfast to protest Belfast City Council's decision to euthanize Lennox. A peaceful rally was held outside of City Hall with people from around the globe participating.
Belfast City Council's absolute refusal to acknowledge the concerns of many has some questioning whether Lennox has already been destroyed.
The Council turned down multiple offers to relocate Lennox outside of Northern Ireland, including one from renowned animal trainer, Victoria Stilwell. Digital Journal is reporting the Council has also refused the family the right to see their dog one last time.
It is now believed that Lennox will be put down on Tuesday, July 10.
Further protests will take place in New York City on Monday outside of the British Consulate.
Update July 2, 2012
Sadly, Lennox's family has decided they have no further legal recourse in their battle to save Lennox, and have admitted defeat. The family stated, "We cannot subject him to any more as there are no grounds for a further appeal and we do not wish to prolong his suffering any longer by engaging in a battle that we simply cannot win." They struggled heartily "to put in writing that the fight to spare Lennox’s life may well be over."
There is faint hope that an offer to take the dog to the United States may be accepted by the Belfast City Council. An offer was extended by the Cesar Millan Foundation to help rehabilitate and rehome Lennox. The family says that if the offer is turned down they will fight for their right to say goodbye to their dog. The family said, "We cannot bear the thought that Lennox will die without being reminded of the hearts and hands that love him."
The family released an official statment on July 2 to the Save Lennox Facebook page. Their Official Statement in full reads:
We apologise for the silence as we know our many friends and supporters around the world have been desperate for news but until we had further talks with our legal team we had nothing new to share. We needed to explore all possible options before we issued another statement as we did not wish to give those that have campaigned so tirelessly any false hope or for anything to be taken out of context as has happened in the past.
Whilst there may well be errors in the Judge’s ruling from a point of law this has little bearing on whether we can or should progress by taking the case to a higher court. The ruling is based on the Judge's decision that he deems Lennox to be unsafe despite evidence given by those qualified to assess and understand dog behaviour that contradicts the testimony of the Prosecution that was presented in court. This has given us little room for manoeuvre.
Our concern and priority has always been the welfare of our beloved boy. We have fought to have Len returned to our family from the moment he was seized but we have been advised that the legal fight is at an end. We are obviously distraught but have to consider the impact that any future lengthy legal battle would have on Len if we chose to go against the advice that we have been given. We cannot subject him to any more as there are no grounds for a further appeal and we do not wish to prolong his suffering any longer by engaging in a battle that we simply cannot win.
We have attempted to write this statement many, many times but have struggled to put in writing that the fight to spare Lennox’s life may well be over. It has been almost impossible for us to accept that we have to admit defeat. We always believed that there was some hope and that justice would prevail. We were wrong. There have been many dark days for us since Len was taken and we want you all to know that it is your support and kindness that kept us going through the blackest times.
This is all we can share with you at the moment and we are finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that there is nothing more that we can do from a legal point of view and that Lennox may well be killed. We have one last hope that Belfast City Council will allow Lennox to be rehomed in the USA. The offer is there but we have no say in whether this offer will be accepted. We have never refused to rehome Lennox. That decision was taken out of our hands from the moment Len took his final walk with us from our house to the Dog Wardens van.
If the offer is turned down we will fight for our right to say goodbye. We cannot bear the thought that Lennox will die without being reminded of the hearts and hands that love him.
Imagine inviting a few people into your home for coffee. Then, imagine that they take out a measuring tape and measure your child's teeth. They say his teeth are too big, that people with big teeth are thought to be a danger to society and therefore your son will be arrested and sentenced to death.
It's unimaginable, isn't it? Well, that's what happened to a four-legged family member named Lennox and his family, except dog wardens used a tape measure to determine the size of his legs and head and concluded that he was a danger to society. (This also happened to two dogs named Bear and Kooda in Australia. Read their story here: Veterinarians slam Breed Specific Legislation killing two innocent dogs in Australia).
Latest news - June 15, 2012
News this week from Belfast, Northern Ireland shocked and dismayed animal lovers across the world, as Northern Ireland's most senior judges rejected Caroline Barnes' legal bid to overturn an order for the destruction of her dog, Lennox. Lennox, now aged seven, was seized by Belfast City Council dog wardens two years ago. The wardens had been given a friendly invite into Barnes' home for tea, when they measured Lennox's rear legs and head and assessed him to be "of type", meaning he was deemed to be a pit bull and, therefore, subject to Britain's Dangerous Dog Act.
Last Tuesday's appeal was Barnes' final chance to save Lennox, but Lord Justice Girvan agreed with the County Court judge's ruling that the dog could not be made safe and must be destroyed.
For two long years, the Barnes family have been battling the courts and Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) to save the life of Lennox. The family and their legal team have a few short weeks to decide what next step, if any, they will take.
However, there are few, if any, options for them or Lennox at this stage. They may have the right to take their case to the Supreme Court in London, which is the final court of appeal in the UK, but as yet, nothing has been determined.
As the ruling was announced, reaction worldwide has been swift and heartfelt.
Renowned animal behaviorist and trainer Victoria Stilwell wrote: "Devastating and unjust. The dregs of humanity. Evidence from highly skilled dog behaviorists rejected and evidence from a police dog handler upheld. Shame on BSL (breed specific legislation) and shame on those for demonizing particular breed types. I can tell you now that because of unqualified people who fear certain dogs, BSL will spread to other breeds, but ignorance will never win because we will continue to fight. Thoughts for Lennox's family and for Lennox. You poor, poor boy, trapped in the middle of this horror all because of human ignorance."
Celebrity Cesar Millan also sent out this tweet, "I know about the Lennox situation. It's a decision I truly don't agree with. My team is working to find a better solution to help."
Flaws in the case against Lennox
In our opinion, there were several points to Lennox's case which revealed a disturbing lack of judgement on the part of the judiary system's interpretation of BSL.
- Lennox was deemed a "pit bull", despite DNA evidence that revealed him to not have any trace of pit bull in his ancestry. He is an American Bulldog/Labrador mix. But because he looks like a bully-type, the court ruled he was one, and should be put down.
- His family had followed the law and were responsible dog owners. He had been microchipped, neutered, DNA registered, insured, and licensed with a valid city-issued dog license.
- Lennox had never been accused of biting or attacking a human or dog prior to his confinenment. Even under confinement, there is no evidence he has shown any aggression to others.
- Note that the UK's Dangerous Dog Act was recently ammended and stipulates the that the "accused" dog must also be proven dangerous. So under current laws, Lennox is not a dangerous dog, however, this ammendment was not applied in judging Lennox.
- Several canine experts who evaluated Lennox deemed him to not be a threat. Their expert testimony was discounted in favor of the testimony of a police handler, who is a noted BSL supporter and seen as simply a "breed identifier".
- An employee at the pound holding Lennox allegedly claimed he was aggressive, despite photographic evidence showing Lennox as being affectionate towards her.
- When defense appealed the initial judgement by Judge Rodgers, the case was reviewed by the very same judge, who, conveniently chose not to overturn his own ruling.
The end of the fight to save Lennox
Although it is unknown how much, if any, time there is to sway the course of destiny for Lennox, you can let your voice be heard and lend your support by signing the Save Lennox petition. Even if the petition is ignored by Belfast courts, if the Barnes family chooses to take their appeal to London, the more people signing the petition the better. It will also be written as a record of protest for years to come.
The family issued this statement on Wednesday:
"We would like to thank everyone for the countless messages that we have received in the last 24 hours during what is a very difficult time for our family and for the support we have had from so many since Lennox was seized in 2010. The past two years have been extremely distressing for many reasons and we appreciate that this has been a very emotive case for dog lovers worldwide who have spoken out against the failings of Breed Specific Legislation. We take some comfort in the knowledge that we are not the only ones to be devastated by the recent ruling. We are in talks with our legal team and will make another statement in due course."
The Barnes familiy have not publicly stated whether they intend to take their case to the Supreme Court in London. However, the family have requested a last visit with Lennox, which was denied.
Breed Specific Legislation in your community
BSL was brought into law to protect people. However, in light of the Lennox Tragedy, we, as a society, cannot allow laws that simply dictate execution of a dog because of the way he/she looks. In all cases, circumstance, individual's rights, and evidence must be taken into consideration.
BSL goes beyond discrimination and into the territory of racial hygiene - the practice of exterminating living beings based on their appearance.
Yet many politicians and lawmakers do not see the inherent flaw in BSL - that exterminating a breed will not put a stop to irresponsible dog ownership. Irresponsible dog owners can simply go out and get another dog. BSL will not stop dog bites from happening. Dogs of all breeds have, and will continue, to bite people.
What you can do:
- Get informed about BSL in your community. Local animal rescues and animal welfare organizatons are great resources to learn more about all aspects of BSL. For example, in British Columbia, Canada the HugaBull Advocacy & Rescue Society works towards educating the public on pit bulls and responsible dog ownership. Volunteers at HugaBull also work with politicians to help change laws.
- Find out if your community has BSL and learn if animal control bylaws are up for review. If they are, know where your local council members stand on the issue. Your votes matter to them, so if you haven't written to your local representatives already, consider doing so.
- Educate others about BSL.
Don't allow another innocent dog suffer and die based on appearance. Laws like BSL are proposed and put into effect by politicians voted into power by you, so make your voice heard and your vote count.
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