The fight for Lennox ends – shame on the Belfast City Council

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Lennox, the 7-year-old American Bull Dog/Labrador mix who was seized by the Belfast City Council (BCC) in Northern Ireland in May 2012 has been, according to reports, “humanely put to sleep.”

The story that has captured the hearts of animal lovers around the world centers on a law in Belfast that makes owning a pit bull illegal. The BCC seized Lennox because they deemed that he was, by appearance, a pit bull, despite DNA testing to the contrary.

The Barnes family, Lennox’s owners, have spent the last two years fighting to have Lennox returned, and in the event that wasn’t possible, rehomed to someplace without breed specific legislation. Offers to take the dog – who has never been aggressive, never bitten anyone, never had a complaint against it – have come from the U.S., Italy and even the Georgian Republic. Renowned dog trainer Victoria Stillwell offered to rehome the dog in the U.S. at her own expense.

But today, Lennox was put down.

This upsets me for so many reasons.

First, the loss of a dog is devastating, even when you know it’s coming and especially when you’re hoping you can avoid it. As you know, I lost my beloved Scout in January to digestive cancer. He lived 6 months longer than expected and was for the most part unaffected by his terminal illness. I knew it was coming. Every day I was carefully monitoring his diet, his poop, his activity, changing medications to help keep his stomach calm, and eliminating anything from his diet that might cause him discomfort.

And yet, on the day he took a turn for the worse and I knew it “was time”, it was as if it came from left field. It’s been seven months since that day and I still cry several days a week. Just thinking about Lennox, alone in that cramped space for two years, then put down without his family to see him off, makes my stomach hurt.

Second, this was a senseless death. This wasn’t a bad dog – it wasn’t even a dog banned by the law. He was not a Pit Bull. He was licensed, up to date on vaccinations, neutered, DNA registered, microchipped. But because someone took out a tape  measure and deemed that Lennox’s body size and characteristics met a breed standard for a Pit Bull, he was deemed a Pit Bull and seized.

And then killed.

And last, it scares me that someone could randomly come to my house and take my dog. I know Ireland is on the other side of the world. But that kind of breed specific legislation exists in the US. Did you know that in Colorado, for example, that same pit bull ban exists? In some cities, it is illegal to own a Pit Bull or similar breed.

And remember, Lennox wasn’t a pit bull. He was DNA certified as an American Bull Dog and Labrador mix.

I look at my dog Bailey. She’s part pit bull. She’s also part retriever and part scent hound and part Harry Houdini. She’s hyper and has had some behavioral issues. I thank God – literally – that I live in a village that doesn’t discriminate. While we have tried to rehome her – three dogs was too many – I can’t imagine sending her to live with someone else. I’ve become that protective of her, because I don’t want her to end up like Lennox. I don’t want some ignorant pit bull hater to raise a campaign against her just because her ears look a certain way or she carries Pit Bull DNA.

When will people in government and leadership understand that specific breeds are not the problem? That media hype blows the perception way out of proportion? When a Pit Bull type dog bites someone, the media uses the breed in the headline – as in “Pit Bull Attacks” – far more than other dogs – as in “Brooklyn Dog Kills Infant” for a Doberman attack, giving the impression that far more Pit Bulls than other dogs attack. In addition, they assume a dog is a Pit Bull based on looks – which as we can see with Lennox is not always accurate.

Did you know that, not that long ago, the reviled dog du jour was the Doberman? The German Shepherd? Rotweillers? And the Bloodhound? Yup, a Bloodhound. Because of their amazing ability to track scent, they were used to find escaped prisoners. They got a reputation for being bloodthirsty, dangerous animals. The mere mention of a Bloodhound struck fear in the hearts of average Americans, much the same way Pit Bull does now.

Of course, back when we were reviling Dobermans and Bloodhounds, Petey the Pit Bull was melting our hearts on Our Gang.

In the end, the Barnes family has suffered a devastating loss. Not only did they lose their family pet, the BCC would not allow them to see the dog to say goodbye. Their disabled daughter was denied the chance to see her beloved pet before he died.

It’s a shame and a travesty, and if nothing else, let’s pray that Lennox’s death moves people to learn more about breed specific legislation – because who knows what breed will be in the cross hairs next?

RIP Lennox. Our hearts are with your family.

Here’s a little more information about the Pit Bull myth:

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  • http://www.healingrescuedogs.com Kathy

    Hi Joanne – this was scary (and stupid and ignorant and a damn shame). I’ve been making some comments on my own about wanting to see the Canine Good Citizenship program (CGC) that I know you are knowledgeable about – rolled out as a public awareness campaign. Imagine a world where a dog/handler CGC identification carried the same clout as the American Disabilities Act (ADA) which “saved” the working relationship between a disabled vet and his therapy dog: http://dld.bz/b8JYF

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