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article imageOp-Ed: Final hours for Northern Ireland dog sentenced to be destroyed

By Elizabeth Batt     Jul 10, 2012 in Lifestyle
Belfast - With mass protests both online and at the British Consulate in New York City, confusion ruled the day in the case of Lennox, and time is running out for the Labrador/Bulldog sentenced to be destroyed in Northern Ireland under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
There was hope yesterday for Lennox the dog, and then there wasn't. As protesters bombarded politicians, media outlets, Queen Elizabeth II and Belfast City Council (BCC) hoping to gain a reprieve for the 7-year-old lab/bulldog, they also gathered en masse outside the British Consulate in New York City, begging for somebody – anybody, to step in and save the dog who has captured hearts around the globe.
Courtesy of No Kill New York
The case of Lennox the dog has attracted worldwide attention since he was seized by the City of Belfast in Northern Ireland back in May 2010, and ordered to be destroyed for being a "pit-bull type" dog under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA).
News swung back and forth all day mirroring the hope and despair of Lennox supporters everywhere. In NYC, protesters heard that Lennox had been granted amnesty. Grateful and relieved, the group, organized by 'No Kill New York', dispersed and headed home.
A short while later, Kim Winters, a spokesperson for the Barnes family announced via Facebook:
OFFICIAL-******** for those of you who do not know me, I am Craigs sister, Caroline's sister-in-law (Lennox' owner) ....I can confirm that NO amnesty has been granted, we still need to keep up the pressure, please share this CORRECT info, THANK YOU all for your support xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Letters and Tweets to First Minister Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party were also answered. Mr. Robinson acknowledged that once the case went to court, politicians had no control over it. However, he had, he said:
Meanwhile, in various telephone conversations to the Belfast courts, callers were told that there was a destruction order in place but only BCC had the power to grant Lennox a reprieve, or give permission for the dog to be re-homed in the USA. But the Council placed it back on the courts, calling the canine's case a "legal matter."
In a statement made to BBC News today, BCC said it had a duty "which it performs reluctantly in order to ensure public safety. Re-homing will not deal with the issues in this case- the dog has been found to be unpredictable and dangerous by experts," they said, adding that this "view is shared by the courts and the dog is now the subject of an order by the courts."
The BBC's article only scrapes the surface of a complex situation. It does not mention for instance, that those whom the BCC call "experts," are in fact the same dog handlers and wardens (employed by BCC), who first seized Lennox from his home two years ago.
As for re-homing Lennox the Council said, it would be "reckless and irresponsible" when he would still "pose the same danger to others." A danger that hasn't materialized in seven years, not even while in Council care. Even the offer of an all-expenses-paid transfer to the US, with subsequent care provided by canine behaviorist and expert Victoria Stilwell, has been refused. Stilwell is the star of Animal Planet's television show, It's Me or the Dog.
Independent reports from accredited dog behaviorists have never jibed with those of BCC, and were largely ignored both by the courts, and by the Council. Stilwell for example, described Lennox as submissive, despite provocation, and dog specialist Sarah Fisher, called him "sweet ... charming ... gentle."
It is this steadfast refusal to entertain any external opinions, that has Lennox supporters tearing their hair out.
Besides politicians, activists also targeted media outlets demanding to know why their outrage wasn't being heard. One such recipient was Richie Oakley, Editor of Sunday in the Sunday Times Ireland. He Tweeted yesterday:
Finally after managing to block the e-mails, Mr. Oakley wished the "Save Lennox campaign all the best" and said that he had, "got to admire their spirit though."
Ironically, the media is seen by some as partly responsible for breed-specific legislation or BSL. In a report by the National Canine Council, Karen Delise blames "emotionally charged news accounts of a dog bite fatality" for teaching the wrong lesson.
"Understanding instances of canine aggression requires going beyond the news stories," she said, "to uncover the facts that reporters overlooked." This can takes months Delise suggested, "a delay that a deadline-driven press may not abide." And by then, she adds, "the press will have moved on to new stories."
As a result, explained Delise, "any analysis of the exceedingly rare cases when human-canine interactions end in tragedy affords an understanding that news outlets may not be patient enough or persistent enough to uncover." Thus, the "Pit Bull Paparazzi" she said, has become the source for information on dog attacks:
Ever on the alert for any incident involving their high-profile subject, pushing past or ignoring all “low entertainment” attacks, while zooming in on and hyping any incident involving the “high entertainment” Pit bull. Theories about the breed, its history and temperament, are discussed, while details concerning the circumstances of the individual dog involved are not reported. Cause and effect, or reasons for the attack, are no longer found in reports, since breed is now recognized as sufficient information to explain aggression.
All Lennox supporters want, is to be heard, by an independent review that incorporates multiple experts. If Belfast City Council is adamant that they have walked the straight line, then there is nothing to lose in allowing the case to be reviewed. Lennox once gone however, cannot be brought back.
The Barnes Family, less than an hour ago, issued this statement:
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you all again for your messages of support. We are sorry to say at the present time Belfast city council seem to be intent on killing our boy. Despite previous assurances otherwise, we have been denied the opportunity to say goodbye. We have also been told that we cannot collect his body and bring Len home. We have been informed however that we will receive "some" ashes in the mail.
200,000 people signed the petition for Lennox, asking for intervention. There have been protests both in the US and Ireland and people have written to officials from around the world; First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson, has requested that Belfast City Council seriously look at the re-homing option. Several stars from boxer Lennox Lewis to Matchbox Twenty's, Rob Thomas, have spoken up for Lennox and requested the same.
Others have vowed not to forget. The North Country Gazette is reporting that if BCC euthanizes Lennox, they had better be prepared for "economic war."
Indications are, that Belfast City Council with the law on its side will kill Lennox by lethal injection at 7 AM Wednesday, July 11, (2 AM EDT). Despite repeated pleas to see their dog one last time, BCC continues to deny the Barnes family any comfort whatsoever. Their humanity knows no bounds; or perhaps they just don't care to face the reality of what they are about to do?
Update, July 11: Belfast City Council has confirmed that Lennox was put down on Wednesday.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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