More than 109,000 people have signed a petition calling for the first and deputy first ministers of Northern Ireland to spare the dog’s life. A “Save Lennox” Facebook account has nearly 2,800 friends.
Lennox has become a poster dog for ending breed-specific legislation – bans that have resulted in the confiscation and killing of thousands of pets around the world, even though the legislation has had no proven impact on dog-bite statistics.
Lennox was raised by the Barnes family since he was a puppy. Caroline Barnes, a former veterinary nurse, told the Belfast Telegraph that Lennox is the best friend and therapy dog for her 12-year-old daughter, Brooke, who suffers from severe asthma that keeps her indoors most of the time. She said Lennox is also the “soul mate” of their Boxer, Juicy.
But during an unannounced visit to the Barnes’ home in May 2010, three city dog wardens took measurements of Lennox’s muzzle and rear legs, concluded the dog was a possible “Pit Bull Type Breed” and confiscated the dog. The family has not had any contact with Lennox, who is incarcerated in an undisclosed kennel, since then.
Last Friday, County Court Judge Derek Rodgers dismissed the Barnes family’s final appeal to save Lennox’s life. The family now has just 14 days to find a legal loophole in the decision. Rodgers told the BBC that he dismissed the appeal based on testimony that Lennox attacked a dog warden.
The senior dog warden, Alexandra Lightfoot, testified that Lennox was behaving aggressively, “bouncing on all fours” and had bumped her in the face with his muzzled mouth, causing her to fall. She said that in her 25 years as a warden, Lennox was the “probably the most unpredictable and aggressive” of the thousands of dogs she had dealt with.
But the Save Lennox campaign accuses Lightfoot and the other wardens of lying under oath and presenting conflicting evidence. Lennox has never bitten anyone. Lightfoot can even be seen smiling as Lennox kisses her in photos posted on the Save Lennox website, which was started by Caroline Barnes.
Dog experts and celebrities, including renowned dog trainer Victoria Stillwell, have joined the campaign to spare Lennox’s life.
“Lennox committed no crime nor did any member of the public complain about him,” Stillwell wrote on her Positively blog after talking to the Barnes family last March. “Lennox’s family has done more than required by the law as responsible dog owners who also foster dogs for various Northern Ireland dog shelters.”
Northern Ireland’s Dangerous Dogs Order, instituted in 1991, bans all so-called “dangerous dogs.” Per Article 25A of the order, these include Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas and any type of dog “appearing to the Department to be bred for fighting or to have the characteristics of a type bred for that purpose.”
When i Love Dogs emailed the Belfast Dog Warden Service in July 2010 asking for Lennox’s release, it sent this reply: “The Council has a duty to ensure that the law relating to dangerous dogs is enforced and to ensure that the safety of the public is maintained as far as is possible. The Council recognises that this may be upsetting to individual owners who have dogs seized, however it will continue to apply the law and ensure that the general public interest is served.”
According to the Save Lennox website, the Dangerous Dogs Order can be changed by an order of council.
“If the case was heard anywhere else, this would not happen,” Caroline Barnes told the Belfast Telegraph on Friday.
For the latest updates, visit the Save Lennox website.