First Minister Peter Robinson has made a last-minute intervention to try and save the life of Lennox the dog, due to be put down by Belfast City Council this week.
Lennox, a seven-year-old illegal pitbull-type breed, has been at the centre of a legal battle spanning two years and has become a cause celebre around the world.
A celebrity trainer has also travelled to the city to make her own personal appeal for clemency and made an offer to rehome the dog.
Mr Robinson’s move came as angry animal rights activists around the globe mounted a last-ditch campaign to try and save the family pet.
Protesters took to the streets in America yesterday while others around the world bombarded the media with phone calls and emails calling for pressure to be put on the authorities to commute the dog’s death sentence.
Last month, Northern Ireland's top court rejected a legal bid from the dog’s owner, Caroline Barnes, to overturn the decision of two lower courts condemning Lennox to death.
A 28-day reprieve after the last court date runs out at midnight tonight.
The DUP leader said he had spoken to the Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson and suggested Belfast City Council “seriously look a rehoming option”. He asked: “Why exercise the order if there’s an alternative?”
Yesterday No Kill New York, a US-based animal rights group, staged protests outside the British and Irish consulates in the city to plead for Lennox’s life.
The Belfast Telegraph was inundated with emails and phone calls from all over the world last night as campaigners staged a final effort to save Lennox.
An avalanche of pleas from the US and UK and well as Australia, Sweden, Finland and Belgium swamped phones and computer mailboxes.
Some warned that “animal rights activists never forget an injustice” while others threatened a boycott of Belfast and Northern Ireland if Lennox is put down.
The Barnes family have admitted all legal options had been exhausted and that the fight to spare Lennox's life may be over.
“It has been almost impossible for us to accept that we have to admit defeat. We always believed there was some hope and that justice would prevail. We were wrong,” they said in a statement.
Victoria Stilwell, host of It's Me or the Dog on the Animal Planet network, met with Lennox’s family at the weekend and has offered to find him a new home in the United States.
“I have received the Barnes family’s approval to take Lennox, and while I can only imagine the heartache they would feel at seeing him go, they have said they would prefer him to have a happy life elsewhere rather than see it end,” she said.
“My long-standing private offer to absorb all of the cost and organise all of the travel arrangements to transport him at no expense to the Belfast City Council has been with those responsible for making the final decisions regarding Lennox for some time.”
Mr Robinson said: “As a dog lover I am very unhappy with the outcome of this case”.
Jane Velez-Mitchell report on CNN