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Belfast dog euthanized by city over resemblance to pitbull terrier - international animal lovers condemn decision

A Northern Ireland dog, named "Lennox," was put to sleep Wednesday after two-year legal battle between his owners and the Belfast City Council.

Pitbull dog animal lennox ireland belfast 7 12 2012 0Enlarge
NEW YORK - JULY 12: Herb Nieves and his dog Max, a red nose pitbull, cool out in the Columbus Circle fountain during a heat wave on July 12, 2011 in New York City. The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory as the heat index is expected to reach 100 in New York City. The city has kept cooling centers open to help residents beat the heat and humidity. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images) (Ramin Talaie/AFP/Getty Images)

Dog lovers are in an uproar over a Belfast, Northern Ireland decision to euthanize an innocent dog - because he closely resembled a pitbull. 

Seven-year-old Lennox - a large black dog with no history of biting - was seized in 2010 under the precepts of Northern Ireland's "Dangerous Dog" act, which has illegalized pitbull type dogs, deeming them to be unusually dangerous. Authorities declared the animal to be a public danger after a behavior evaluation, and ordered that he be euthanized. 

The dog's owners staged a widely-publicized battle to save him, noting the dog had never attacked anyone and was unlikely to do so in the future. Owner Caroline Barnes publicly claimed the dog was an American Bulldog/Labrador Retriever cross, and does not have any pitbull ancestry. 

Lennox's struggle soon gained international attention: protests in his name were held in Spain, New York City, and in Belfast, while animal lovers  from around the world inundated the Belfast Telegraph with messages of support. Supporters of the dog gathered over 213,127 signatures on an online petition to save him.

Read More: Arguments for and against breed-specific dog bans

Popular television dog trainer Victoria Stillwell also jumped into the fray, offering to adopt the dog and bring him to the USA - a request that was denied by the Belfast City Council. Stillwell, after watching video of Lennox's behavioral evaluation by the city, declared on her website that she did not believe the dog was dangerous. 

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson personally called on the Belfast City Council to reconsider their decision, reported The Telegraph, suggesting the Council "seriously look at rehoming option."

Lennox's supporters were ultimately unsuccessful: in June, senior Northern Ireland judges rejected owner Caroline Barne's legal attempt to overturn the euthanasia order. The 7-year-old dog was "humanely put to sleep" late Wednesday. Lennox's owner, Caroline Barnes, told the Belfast Telegraph that her daughter was not given a chance to say goodbye to her pet. 

Read More: Dog trainer Victoria Stillwell rebukes Belfast for Lennox decision 

A Belfast City Council spokesman defended the move to the Belfast Telegraph, telling media an expert had deemed Lennox to be "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 spokesman added. 

Many critics of breed specific legislation, such as the "Dangerous Dog" act in Northern Ireland, point out that it's often very difficult to determine if a dog is a pitbull or not - and that poorly behaved dogs tend to be made, not born.

Supporters claim that banning dog breeds often involved in dog-bite cases is necessary for the safety of the public, especially children.

Linda Butler More than 1 year ago
While the case of Lennox could have been handled better, it seem that there has been very little dialog based on the FACTS of the case. People get so emotionally charge that they cannot objectively review facts. Here is the analysis from the legal folks of the actual court case: Besides the dog warden, there were 3 "professional" assessments. One represented the Belfast City Council. That one said the dog was unpredictable. We've all heard about that one. What people are generally unaware of if Mr. Ryan, the owner's own expert. In paragraph 8, Mr. Ryan (the owner's own expert) said this dog could be dangerous to non family members: recorded that when he reached over the dog's head to clip a line to the back of his collar in one movement the dog lunged towards him, growled, barked and snapped. He concluded that if the dog were to be returned to the family he would not be a danger to the public if kept muzzled and confined to a lead when in public and kept confined to an enclosure from which he could not escape when not confined by a lead. Ms. Fisher, the third expert, who testified she did not have experience with pit bulls, is the only one who DID NOT think the dog was dangerous. Which makes 2 out of 3 professional assessments against the dog. Why Mr Ryan said what he said is for reasons that are not shown in the assessment tape that has been recently released. Did he really have the bad experience he claimed to have with Lennox? Only he knows for sure. The owner's themselves knew the dog was dangerous: In paragraph 4: The wardens spoke to a male on the premises who refused to permit the examination of the dog and told he them that if they attempted to measure the dog it would "rip their head off" In paragraph 9 the owner admits to that at present the dog was muzzled "to warn people". Further, in paragraph 10, the owner admits that the dog is aggressive with strangers and she admitted she used a muzzle on the dog already. The only travesty of justice here is that the dog was kept confined in questionable accommodations for 2 years while the owner battled the BCC. And I must say, while would have ruled the same way as the court, given the same evidence, I would definitely not have euthanized Lennox if there were a good alternative, which, in this case, there was. Thanks to you Ms. Stilwell. I wish folks could get past their emotions and look at the actual facts of the case. Would Lennox have been ok left in the care of his family? Maybe. But maybe not.
m More than 1 year ago
Screw the children...
P J Obie More than 1 year ago
Another victim falls in Northern Ireland---a truly despicable act! Don't worry folks, Lennox is ok, frolicking at the Rainbow Bridge.....the weak humans responsible for this will pay 3-fold....we'll never see or hear of it but they will....
almostoutofhere More than 1 year ago
Beyond disgusting. I can't believe they went through with it. I will NEVER set foot in Ireland again and I wish every dog lover would do the same. I hope Lennox is playing happily with my sweet Ginger at the Rainbow Bridge.
Stephanie Millane More than 1 year ago