Battle to save condemned dog nears end

Mon, Jul 9, 2012, 01:00

The battle to save Lennox, a Belfast pit bull terrier-type dog at the centre of a two-year legal controversy, comes to an end tomorrow.

The dog was deemed dangerous by Northern Ireland’s most senior judges in the Court of Appeal last month, after being seized from his home by Belfast City Council dog wardens over two years ago. Two lower courts had previously ruled that the seven-year-old dog posed a danger to the public and he was sentenced under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

The 28-day reprieve after the last court date runs out tomorrow evening and Lennox is due to be destroyed this week.

A council spokesperson could not comment on when the destruction of the dog would occur or whether any last minute appeals from the Save Lennox campaign would have any effect.

"The current destruction order is an order of the court, which was affirmed on appeal. The council is under a duty to comply with the order.”

The ‘Save Lennox’ campaign had gained international attention with final protests taking place in New York yesterday following a march on Belfast’s City Hall on Saturday. The online petition had over 188,000 signatures and a large following on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Lennox’s owners, the Barnes family, released an online statement last week saying “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.”

US celebrity dog-trainer and television presenter of Animal Planet’s ‘It’s Me or the Dog’ Victoria Stilwell travelled to Belfast in the past few days to meet with Caroline Barnes and to attempt to meet council authorities in the hope of exporting the dog to the United States.

Chief Inspector Conor Dowling of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the case could not have occurred in the Republic as Irish legislation does not ban particular types of breed like the UK and Northern Ireland.

“In Ireland a pit bull terrier would come under a restricted breed, have to be kept on a lead, be muzzled and wear a tag.”

He said the Lennox case was “very unfortunate” particularly for “how long it has dragged on.”

He said the complications of the case demonstrate how “breed specific legislation doesn’t seem to work.”

However Mr Dowling said behaviour and temperament of a dog had to be considered, and if a dog is deemed dangerous “it wouldn’t be a good idea for him to be released anywhere.”