In May 2010, Lennox, the pet of Caroline Barnes and a therapy dog for her young daughter, was confiscated by Belfast dog wardens after an unannounced visit to her home. After the wardens measured Lennox’s jaw and rear legs, they decided he was a “Pit Bull Type Breed.”
For two years, Barnes fought an uphill legal battle to save her dog’s life. She was not alone: Lennox’s fate drew international attention. More than 127,000 people signed a petition asking the Belfast city council to release the dog. Renowned experts including dog trainer Victoria Stillwell and “America’s Veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker urged the city council to send Lennox home.
But that battle ended today. BBC News reports that Lord Justice Girvan, who ruled on the case with Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and Lord Justice Higgins, rejected Barnes’ final appeal to spare her dog’s life.
Barnes did not appear in court, but her attorneys argued that County Court Judge Derek Rodgers, who had ruled after an October 2010 hearing that Lennox was a danger to the public and ordered him to be destroyed, needed to “state a case on points of law,” according to BBC News.
Rodgers made his decision after the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act was changed so that “Pit Bull type” dogs are no longer automatically destroyed unless they are considered to be dangerous to the public.
The attorneys pointed out that although Rodgers considered Lennox to be a risk to the public, the dog has never actually bitten anyone and has exhibited exemplary behavior ever since he’s been impounded.
In fact, photos posted on the Save Lennox website show the dog nuzzling the face of animal warden Alexandra Lightfoot, who testified in an earlier hearing that Lennox tried to bite her.
But Girvan rejected their argument, saying Rodgers “found as a fact, as he was fully entitled to do on the evidence, that the dog could not be rendered safe by the imposition of a scheme of conditions designed to render it safe. The judge had heard evidence on the issues relating to this dog over a protracted two-day hearing, carefully considered the evidence and the issues and he reached conclusions of fact which have not been vitiated by any error of law on his part.”
Girvan concluded, “Accordingly we must dismiss the application to compel the judge to state a case” – essentially giving Lennox a death sentence.
Lennox has become a poster dog for ending breed-specific legislation. Breed bans have resulted in the confiscation and killing of thousands of beloved family pets around the world, even though such legislation has had no proven impact on public safety.