Belfast Telegraph

Court rules pitbull Lennox must die

By Amanda Poole

Anger was growing among animal lovers across the world last night after a judge ruled that a Belfast family’s dog should be put to sleep.

Caroline Barnes was appealing a ruling that the animal, Lennox, should be destroyed after he was deemed too dangerous to live.

But County Court Judge Derek Rodgers yesterday upheld a court decision from earlier this year saying public safety must come first.

He said he could not be satisfied Lennox did not pose a threat based on attacks on a dog warden and former police dog handler who examined him.

The dog, which is being held at an undisclosed location, is now to be put to sleep.

But the court ruling was met with fury by supporters across the world who have been organising a high-profile campaign for Lennox’ life to be saved.

More than 100,000 people have joined the |online campaign and last night more than 1,000 had placed comments on Belfast City Council’s Facebook page condemning the court decision.

Within minutes of the appeal case ending in Belfast yesterday supporters from the UK, Ireland, America, Canada, Australia and across Europe were voicing their anger at the outcome of the case online.

Caroline Barnes claims that Lennox is a much-loved family pet and is the best friend of her disabled daughter.

But Belfast City Council dog wardens seized him last year because they believe he is a dangerous pit bull breed and had concerns over his aggressive behaviour.

Speaking just after the court verdict yesterday, Ms Barnes, from Disraeli Court, told the Belfast Telegraph she felt “sick” and said “if the case was to be heard elsewhere, this wouldn’t be happening”.

The mother-of-one wept as she made her way out of court and said she didn’t know how she was going to explain the decision to her daughter Brooke.

The Save Lennox campaign team later posted: “A very sad day for human kind, a sad day for the justice system and a worse day for innocent Lennox. We lost.”

The legal battle over Lennox is believed to have cost ratepayers in Belfast tens of thousands of pounds.

Following earlier court hearings, Belfast City Council dog wardens were subjected to a campaign of intimidation.

It included threatening letters — and one, which was drenched in petrol, being put through the letterboxes of two female staff members. Another member of staff had her car tyres slashed outside her home.

The Barnes family have condemned threats against council staff.

A council spokeswoman said: “The campaigners also inundated the council’s social networking sites and embarked on an online hate campaign against individual members of staff.

“This kind of intimidation against our staff is to be utterly condemned.

“It is totally unacceptable that officers, who were merely |enforcing the law as they are required to do, were subjected to such a sustained and threatening campaign.

“Lennox was seized by council dog wardens because they believed that he was a pit bull terrier-type and that he was also dangerous.

“This was backed up by an independent expert who gave evidence on the council’s behalf.

“We believe that if Lennox was released back to his owners he poses a serious risk, not just to them but also to members of the general public.”

County Court Judge Rodgers said he could not be satisfied that Lennox did not pose a threat to the public.

He based his conclusion on attacks on a dog warden and a former Metropolitan Police dog handler who examined Lennox.

Judge Rodgers added: “Accordingly, I cannot be satisfied that this dog is not a danger to the public and so I dismiss the appeal.” While it looks certain that this is the end of the road for Lennox, last night a Belfast City Council spokeswoman said he will not be destroyed immediately.

The dog will instead be held at a secret location for the next 21 days.

A distraught Caroline Barnes has this time to study the judgment and see if there are any points on which she can make a last-ditch appeal.

‘If the case was heard anywhere else this would not happen’

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