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article imageOp-Ed: Dog warden who testified against Lennox the dog gets a promotion

By Elizabeth Batt     Jul 15, 2012 in Politics
Antrim - With outrage still swirling over the death of Lennox the dog, it appears that Alexandra Lightfoot, the dog warden who testified under oath that Lennox was "one of the most aggressive dogs" she had dealt with, received a promotion.
Lennox, the Labrador/American Bulldog, was destroyed on July 11 by Belfast City Council (BCC), despite a massive campaign to free the dog and re-home him in the USA.
For more than two years, the Barnes family who owned Lennox, pursued all legal avenues to bring their dog home after he was seized by the BCC in May 2010. But by mid-June, a final court ruling upheld the decision of two lower courts who ordered Lennox to be destroyed under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA).
More than 200,000 people had signed a petition asking the BCC to spare Lennox. Dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, star of It's Me or the Dog, had offered to re-home him in the US. Even Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson, asked Belfast's Lord Mayor about Lennox's case and suggested BCC should seriously look at the re-homing option, considering the dog had no violent history.
But it was all to no avail. BCC carried out the court's destruction order as soon as it was viable to do so. Robinson called the act shameful. "Destroying a dog that had no history of aggression is folly" he said, "and shames society." But it was more shameful in that the court ignored independent assessments from two certified dog behaviorists - David Ryans and Sarah Fisher, and relied solely on the testimony of two people, Peter Tallack (a dog handler), and Alexandra Lightfoot (a dog warden), both employed by BCC.
Alexandra Lightfoot, also known as Sandie Lightfoot, took the stand and testified under oath that Lennox was "one of the most aggressive dogs" she had ever seen, and she was scared to be around him. But her account did not jibe with video captured one year after Lennox was seized, that showed Ms. Lightfoot holding and petting Lennox during Ryan's assessment.
Ms. Lightfoot's involvement in the Lennox case has long been queried by the Barnes family and also by thousands of Lennox supporters. Both have accused the BCC employee of perjury, and a 15,000 signature petition, asked that she be removed from her post as a dog warden at BCC.
After a tip received by Digital Journal, it seems Ms. Lightfoot may have already moved on, months before Lennox was euthanized.
According to minutes posted online of the proceedings of a Meeting of the Environment and Borough Services Committee of Antrim Borough Council held on Thursday 19 April 2012, Ms. Lightfoot might have received a promotion, and is now working as an Animal Welfare Officer in the city of Antrim, about 19 miles north-west of Belfast:
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Antrim Borough Council
For example purposes, according to Top Language Jobs.co.uk, applicants for the position of Dog Warden at fellow Craigavon Borough Council in N. Ireland, must have the following qualifications:
* 5 GCSE passes (grade A - C) to include Maths and English and at least one years experience in the following in a working capacity:
* The handling of dogs
* Dealing with the general public
* Must hold a Full current driving licence
The job pays £10.17 per hour or for a typical 40-hour week, around £19.5k per year. For those not familiar with UK education, GCSE's are obtained in high school, and are typically taken between 15 and 16 years of age. While it is of course impossible to assess whether Ms. Lightfoot has other relevant qualifications, these basic requirements seem hardly "adequate" for assessing a family pet, let along determining whether it should be destroyed or not.
But let's move on to an Animal Welfare Officer, who according to the Group Environmental Health Employer Councils or Belfast City Council, must have:
"A relevant third level qualification in animal care/ animal management or a related discipline and one year's experience in the handling of animals in furtherance of the objectives of a business or other working environment."
This experience must include:
Providing advice and guidance to members of the public;
Producing written reports and maintaining records;
Operating a range of Microsoft Office IT packages or equivalent packages;
Liaising with other public or professional bodies.
OR
Two years’ experience in the professional care/ management and handling of animals in furtherance of the objectives of a business or other working environment.
The salary for this position is listed as £27,052 - £28,636 per annum, definitely a substantial promotion, but it is the potential for advancement within this position that is the most alarming.
According to All the Top Bananas.com, for an Animal Welfare Officer:
Experience in diffusing hostile situations is a must, as when working in an animal welfare inspector role angry members of the public may confront you, especially if you are taking away their family pet.
But, the company adds, "With the opportunity to progress to a managerial role, such as a Chief Inspector or a Superintendent," Top Bananas said, "the sky is your limit."
And Ms. Lightfoot it seems has also been appointed as an Inspector in County Antrim. In their March minutes, Ballymoney named Lighfoot as one of five officers to provide mutual cover and support across the entire sub region. (Belfast, Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Groups):
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Balleymoney County Council
News of Lightfoot's alleged promotions discovered by Lennox supporters, followed allegations made by Victoria Stilwell a few days ago, that the star had been both threatened and sued by members of BCC over her involvement in the Lennox case.
The Barnes family meanwhile, said that they will not be giving up. In a statement posted by the Save Lennox Campaign, the family said that they "are taking some private time to mourn," but pledged "to continue their campaign to end BSL (Breed-Specific Legislation)." Lennox they added, "won't be forgotten, nor will the cruel act carried out by Belfast City Council."
As further details continue to emerge in Belfast City Council's handling of the Lennox case, the more disconcerting it becomes. The latest rumor being circulated via the North Country Gazette, is that an informer has stepped forward to say that Lennox died months ago while in captivity of kennel stress, which he was apparently being treated for. It is important to note, that this is an unsubstantiated claim.
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 DigitalJournal.com
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