A family has lost their long battle against Belfast City Council for the right to their family pet as a judge today has ruled that Lennox, a Labrador x American Bull Dog, will be put to sleep for the way that he looks.
In May 2010, Lennox was illegally seized from his home by Belfast City Council with a wrongly addressed warrant, on the grounds that he is a pitbull- a breed that is illegal to own in Northern Ireland as a result of BSL (Breed Specific Legislation.) The Council’s argument regarding the breed of the dog was based on the measurements of the dog’s muzzle and rear legs. It has been proven through a series of blood tests, that he is not a pitbull at all. A brother-dog from the same litter as Lennox was presented to the Council who declared that he also was not a pitbull. Therefore, the so-called experts who made the judgement were saying that two dogs from the same litter, born minutes apart, could be two different breeds.
Lennox has never bitten a person or another dog and has proven himself to be an impeccably trained family pet. His owner has a disabled daughter, Brooke, for whom Lennox acted as a companion and a therapy dog. Since the dog’s seizure, she has missed a lot of school due to her suffering health as a result of the distress of losing her friend. Her specialist doctor at the Belfast Royal Hospital for Sick Children has expressed growing concern for Brooke from her separation from Lennox.
Throughout the years, their family also fostered numerous other pets, with Lennox assisting in keeping them company. He never showed any aggression to any of these animals. When he left the house, he was always muzzled, and kept on a leash. He was kept in a secure garden at home and was neutered, microchipped and licensed.
The dog warden who was in charge of handling Lennox said that he was “one of the most aggressive dogs” that she had ever dealt with in a career spanning 25 years, but conflicting reports from other wardens say different as images have been released of the dog sitting on their laps and licking their faces. The only time that the family have been contacted by the Council was after Lennox was seized. A dog warden involved in the seizure telephoned his owner and said,
“If you do not sign him over to us to be destroyed then you will most certainly lose your job as we will force a prosecution upon you through the courts.”
The family were never informed about Lennox’s location or well-being, but a few months after he was taken, a picture was released, showing the dog in unsanitary and substandard conditions, in a small concrete cell with only sawdust to lie in (which many dog experts say to be detrimental to a dog’s health), surrounded by his own waste, and without any visible food or water. More recent photographs have also been released showing that he has lost most of the hair on his body, possibly from stress. He has also contracted a neck injury and bleeding nail beds which went untreated. Peter Tallack, the ex-police dog handler who gave the prosecution’s testimony regarding Lennox’s temperament has been criticised in a report which states the following,
“Peter Tallack is not qualified to give his opinions, and that’s all they are, his personal opinion, because he has no college degree.”
Celebrity dog handler Victoria Stilwell, from the TV show It’s Me or the Dog, has expressed her concern for Lennox and the poor health conditions that he now appears to be suffering from. After extensively studying the assessment videos made by the Council, she submitted a behavioral report saying that Lennox has shown “incredible impulse control and an intent not to harm, I don’t think Lennox is a dangerous dog, I think he needs to go back to his family.” Stilwell also referred to Peter Tallack, saying in one of her podcasts that, “the courts would rather go with untrained, unqualified evidence rather than evidence from two trained, two qualified behavioural experts who both assessed Lennox and said he was not a danger.”
Dog-lovers from around the world have shown their support for the Save Lennox campaign in the last two years and their official Facebook page has over 56,534 ‘likes’. Many of them have said that they are planning on boycotting the city of Belfast as a result of the verdict.
Breed Specific Legislation has ended the lives of countless family pets.The breed should not be held responsible for the mistakes of the owners- judge a dog by its deeds, not its breed. Let’s hope that Northern Ireland realises this before it is too late for other dogs too.
You can watch the Save Lennox Campaign Video here.
Images courtesy of savelennox.com