An animal charity has appealed to be left alone after it was bombarded with threats and abuse following the putting down of Lennox the dog.
Staff at Benvardin Animal Rehoming Kennels (BARK) near Ballymoney in Co Antrim say they have been receiving around a dozen nasty emails and posts through social network sites on a daily basis from as far afield as America, Spain and Germany since the dog was destroyed by Belfast City Council.
And they have been warned online they may be targeted by a vigilante mob intent on wreaking havoc at the shelter.
All five staff at the rehoming shelter work on a volunteer basis and rehome approximately three dogs each day.
Shaun McIntyre — who co-founded BARK with Louise Neill two years ago — said he walked away from a successful career as an engineer to dedicate himself to rescuing dogs.
The 38-year-old from Coleraine said he has been deeply hurt by the threats and criticism and said his colleagues have been reduced to tears by the nature of the comments.
He said he believed the trouble was sparked after an American-based newspaper wrongly claimed Benvardin was one of three locations at which Lennox was kept while his future was debated through the courts.
Mr McIntyre posted a comment on BARK’s Facebook page on Wednesday evening calling for an end to the abuse and misinformation, stating the charity had no involvement in the Lennox case.
“We have absolutely nothing to do with Lennox,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We never had him, we never wanted him and we’re the ones on the receiving end of it now.
“It has been on the increase, too. They are becoming more aggressive.
“We’ve built up a good reputation then you have these crazy fanatics who are ruining it for everyone.”
Ironically, Mr McIntyre said BARK has fought for the preservation of pit bull-type dogs in the past.
He said he will be informing the police of the abuse and that the charity may pursue legal action against the newspaper which allegedly carried the misinformation.
“You try your best for the animals,” he said.
“We don’t want to delete our Facebook either as we spent a long time getting it established.
“We rehome to all over Northern Ireland and last Wednesday we were sitting with 51 dogs.
“Louise and I don’t get a wage, we are doing this voluntarily.
“Every single penny we get goes into the dogs.”
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Last week Belfast City Council confirmed Lennox (right) had been put down after being impounded in 2010. Campaigners claimed to have 200,000 signatures supporting a reprieve. In June, Northern Ireland's most senior judges rejected Caroline Barnes's legal bid to overturn an order for the destruction of her pet. Well-known people including boxer Lennox Lewis and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson were among those who called for the dog to be spared.