Breed, not deed, sealed Lennox's fate
An international campaign to save the life of a pit bull-type terrier in Belfast failed this week despite appeals from Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe
LENNOX WAS PUT down on Wednesday morning after more than two years on “death row”. Countless late calls for a reprieve for the seven-year-old Belfast dog, including one from Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, left no impression on Belfast City Council.
There was Irish and some British media interest in the annual Twelfth of July convulsions in Ardoyne, in north Belfast, this week, but the big international focus was on a small house 400m away from the flashpoint area, on Disraeli Close, off the top of the loyalist Shankill Road.
That’s where Lennox’s owner, Caroline Barnes, and her 14-year-old daughter, Brooke, live. It is a home that loves dogs. There are lots of doggie ornaments around the house. Out in the backyard are Juicy, a six-year-old boxer, and George, an eight-year-old Yorkshire terrier. Barnes also fosters dogs from sanctuaries, and she has worked as a vet’s assistant. She’s a responsible owner: her animals are licensed, microchipped, DNA registered and insured.
“There are a lot of dog lovers around the world, but there doesn’t seem to be any in the council,” she says. “The council were so single-minded and so intent on murdering him they were not willing to listen to anybody, not even the First Minister of Northern Ireland.”
The 36-year-old, who is “humbled” that so many people rallied to Lennox’s support, says that the stress caused by her attempts to save him has left her with debilitating illness and that Brooke, who has kidney problems and chronic asthma, is also suffering physically and emotionally because of the issue.
An online petition to save Lennox was signed by more than 185,000 people; the pit bull-type terrier had 75,000 fans on Facebook; and on Twitter the campaign to save him attracted the interest of 10,000 people. These included, Barnes says, the actor Russell Crowe, the former boxer Lennox Lewis (after whom the dog was named) and Tom Cruise.
The First Minister wondered why Lennox couldn’t be rehomed abroad, as an international dog trainer had offered; the local MP Nigel Dodds and the Minister of Finance, Sammy Wilson, also supported the campaign.
But others were baffled that the life of a dog would trigger such interest. Wouldn’t some find the description of murder excessive, for examlpe? “To pin him to a metal table and inject him with poison, I call that murder,” says Barnes. “To put down a dog is something a caring owner does when it’s ill or in great pain and nothing can be done. The owner does it out of love and respect, but to put down a dog that has done no wrong, other than way he looks, is murder.”
And that’s the crux of this case: the way Lennox looked. He was impounded in May 2010 as a pit bull-type dog, as opposed to being an actual pit bull. Under the UK Dangerous Dogs Act he was therefore deemed dangerous to the public. Barnes says he was seized after a dog warden who called to deliver three licences for her pets noticed Lennox and decided he was dangerous under the Act. “If I had never been an honest citizen, and not licensed my dogs, Lennox would be here today.”