UPDATE: The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland’s office confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph on April 2, 2012, that Lennox’s case has been listed before the Court of Appeal for mention on April 20. The mention will be held to determine if Caroline Barnes and the Belfast City Council are prepared for the full hearing, which is scheduled for May 24.
Lennox, a Belfast pet who may be put to death only because he looks like a Pit Bull, a breed considered “dangerous” and banned in Northern Ireland, has been granted a stay of execution while a judge reviews an appeal filed by the dog’s family on October 21.
According to a story today in the Belfast Telegraph, the Lord Chief Justice Office has until November 11 to review the appeal and make a final decision.
Lennox was seized from the Barnes family in May 2010 by city dog wardens who concluded he was a possible “Pit Bull type breed” based only on their measurements of his muzzle and rear legs. For the past year and a half, Lennox has been kept away from his family at an undisclosed location.
The 6-year-old dog was adopted by Caroline Barnes and her family when he was a puppy. He is a therapy dog for 12-year-old Brooke Barnes, who suffers from severe asthma that keeps her indoors most of the time.
On September 30, Belfast County Court Judge Henry Rodgers shocked animal lovers around the world by ordering that Lennox be destroyed. He allowed the Barnes family two weeks to find a legal loophole in his decision, which he said was based on testimony that Lennox had attacked a dog warden.
The warden, Alexandra Lightfoot, had 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. However, a video has since surfaced in which Lightfoot can be seen smiling as Lennox kisses her face.
The Barnes family has not commented on their appeal.
More than 110,000 people have signed a petition calling for the first and deputy first ministers of Northern Ireland to spare the dog’s life. Animal experts including Victoria Stillwell have spoken out on behalf of Lennox and are calling for his release. (Recently the Save Lennox website, created by Caroline Barnes, has been down intermittently, perhaps due to the appeal.)
Northern Ireland’s Dangerous Dogs Order, instituted in 1991, bans all so-called “dangerous dogs.” Dogs Trust Veterinary Director Paula Boyden told the Belfast Telegraph, “Further improvements are needed and the Dogs Trust has called for an amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act to reflect the ‘deed not breed’ of a dog; to adequately deal with aggressive or dangerous dogs based on the actions of a dog rather than its breed.”
In the meantime, there was good news last week for another seized “Pit Bull-type” dog, in this case a Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix named Blue.
According to the North Country Gazette, Blue was sitting on his front porch in Leyland, Lancashire, UK, last month when he was spotted by a passing police officer. The officer asked Blue’s dog mom, Layla Scott, if her dog was registered, which he was. But five days later police officers showed up at Scott’s home and took Blue, claiming he had “Pit-like characteristics.” After assessing the dog, the police determined there were not sufficient grounds to indicate Blue was a Pit Bull, so he was returned to Scott.