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article imageOp-Ed: Council's heartless handling of the Lennox case poses questions

By Elizabeth Batt     Jul 11, 2012 in Politics
Belfast - In the early hours of July 11, Northern Ireland's Belfast City Council (BCC) euthanized Lennox, without informing his family. Now Victoria Stilwell is accusing BCC of hiding things, because of the heartless way BCC handled Lennox's case.
Victoria Stilwell, the star of Animal Planet's television show, It's Me or the Dog, wants heads to roll at Belfast City Council after they euthanized a family pet and did not inform his family. An irate Stilwell posted this message on Facebook several hours after Lennox had been killed:
I am so disgusted and want everyone to know how low Belfast City Council have stooped. The Barnes family heard about the death of their beloved dog through me because I had been told by a source at BBC Radio Ulster. After what the council put the family through they didn't even have the decency to inform the family first before letting everyone else know.
If this is the way they represent their citizens then Belfast beware. Belfast City Council should hang their heads for the shameful and insensitive way they have handled this. Heartless doesn't even begin to describe the people surrounding this case. Appalling and I can assure you, this will NEVER be forgotten!
For more than two years, the Barnes family fought to bring Lennox home after he was seized by the City of Belfast in May 2010 and ordered to be destroyed for being a "pit-bull type" dog. But by mid-June, a final court ruling upheld the decision of two lower courts that ordered Lennox to be destroyed under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA).
On July 02, in a heartbreaking letter, the Barnes family said that in the best interest of their beloved dog Lennox, they did not wish to "prolong his suffering any longer by engaging in a battle that we simply cannot win."
Thousands of Lennox supporters were outraged, and what followed was one of the greatest campaigns conducted for one animal, ever. Lennox became an immediate priority for hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom did not personally know Lennox, but recognized the injustice surrounding his case. Celebrity figures and politicians all stood firmly behind the family and their pet dog.
But it was all to no avail. BCC maintained its icy silence and shut down all forms of communication, even from its own First Minister, Peter Robinson, who had suggested BCC strongly consider an offer made by Stilwell to re-home the dog in the USA.
BCC only broke their silence to announce in an official statement, that Lennox had been killed.
Enraged supporters were devastated at his loss, which only stung further because of the callousness of BCC's actions. Yesterday, the Barnes family said:
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.
An impromptu candlelight vigil held outside Belfast City Hall the night before Lennox's death was hastily arranged. It included the Barnes family and their young daughter Brooke, who was said to be "in pieces."
Stilwell appeared on CNN Headline News before and after the dog's death to discuss his plight. She also confronted and squared off against BCC Councilor Pat McCarthy, whom she thoroughly rebuked over how the case was handled.
Belfast City Council might have been hoping that with Lennox's death, closure would swiftly follow, but legitimate questions continue to swirl around his death, including why DNA tests showing that Lennox was a bulldog, were not allowed to be admitted as evidence in court. Also puzzling, is why the canine's dog license for 2012, lists him as a bulldog.
Stilwell it seems, is on a mission to get answers to questions that have puzzled many. The canine expert said:
I want to know why Belfast City council won't give Lennox's body back to the family and why they won't even return his collar to Brooke even though they were asked to do so by the family so that she could have something to remember him by. There is something corrupt going on and an independent review of the council's actions in this case needs to be done.
I want answers. Why not return the body? Was Lennox even still alive and what physical condition was he in at the time of his death? We already have evidence of his poor physical state during Sarah Fisher's behavioral evaluation of him last year. Hair loss, sores on his body, a hurt neck and damaged paw. The council have many questions they need to answer because I think they have something to hide.
In killing Lennox, the BCC has stirred up a hornet's nest. Requests asking for an investigation into BCC's handling of the Lennox case are flowing, and animal lovers have memories like elephants. From Boycotting Belfast to declaring War on Belfast City Council, campaigns are being arranged quicker than I can type, as news of Lennox's death dominated social media.
The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also shared their sorrow:
It is with a heavy heart that I write today knowing that Lennox has passed and my heart goes out to the Barnes family. To the thousands of people around the world that supported Lennox's right to live, thank you all.
NJSPCA had been hopeful that the diplomatic political efforts behind the scenes were going to allow Lennox to be removed and rehomed but that all fell apart.
I rarely allow myself to set high expectations for those involved in making decisions as important as this decision on Lennox's fate but even I was shocked at the prejudiced, ignorant, and uncaring actions by the BCC and the Belfast Judicial System. Obviously ego driven and desperate, the end of Lennox's life was decided by misguided, hateful cowards. Do not consider today the end of Lennox's story but instead let this be a new beginning of the story to end BSL (Breed-specific legislation). I am proud of all who stood up and spoke on behalf of Lennox. Capt.
Amazingly, all over Facebook, waves of dogs are showing their solidarity. From pit bull, to poodle, images are everywhere of canines posing with the words, "I am Lennox."
"Extreme law is often extreme injustice," wrote Roman playwright Terence. The heartless handling of the Lennox case, appears to have proved him right.
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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