Lennox: How girl's fight to save dog grabbed headlines around world
Only a handful of people ever met Lennox, but the sad plight of the dog and his owner’s desperate battle to spare his life won thousands of friends around the world.
The dog was put to sleep on Wednesday, finally bringing to a close a legal battle which has spanned two years and made headlines around the world.
From Australia to the United States, and Trinidad to Taiwan, Lennox’s fight for life has been closely followed.
When news of his death was confirmed shortly after 11am yesterday via a 175-word statement from Belfast City Council, hundreds took to the internet to voice their anger and disgust.
One, Rita Silva, asked simply: “Why, why have you ignored the world’s plea for mercy with this poor innocent?”
The council could never have predicted such a backlash when staff seized Lennox from his north Belfast home on May 19, 2010.
It came after the animal showed signs of aggression during a routine licence inspection.
Experts said he was a banned American pit bull terrier breed — a claim denied by owner Caroline Barnes. That was the last time Caroline or her young daughter Brooke, who suffers from asthma and is registered disabled, saw their beloved pet. After the story was reported in the Belfast Telegraph, news of Lennox’s plight was picked up by animal campaigners around the world. For the next two years, countless emails and phone calls from as far afield as Tasmania, Australia and South Africa have flooded in to this newspaper.
Faced with the prospect of the dog being put down, Caroline went to court in a bid to bring Lennox home. Brooke even wrote an emotional letter to Belfast City Council pleading with them to save her “best friend”. However, in March last year, district judge Ken Nixon ruled the dog should be destroyed.
He ruled Lennox’s “total unpredictability” made him a danger to the public under the Dangerous Dogs (NI) Order.
The order was upheld by County Court judge Derek Rodgers in September 2011.
Lennox’s owners continued their fight into 2012, with the case proceeding to the Court of Appeal in May.
Inside the Royal Courts of Justice, normally reserved for the most serious criminals, three of our top judges were asked to decide on the fate of the family pet.
But in mid-June, the family’s last hope of saving Lennox was quashed when the original decision was upheld.
Lennox was granted a 28-day reprieve to allow any further legal challenges, but the deadline expired at midnight on Tuesday without any last-minute intervention. As the clock has ticked down, supporters across the world have bombarded the media and Belfast City Council pleading for Lennox’s life to be spared. One woman who called from Tasmania broke down in tears when told nothing more could be done to save Lennox’s life.
“I don’t understand how the court can do this,” said Janne Thiebaud, who had followed every step of the campaign.
At the weekend, a Save Lennox protest was held in Serbia. Further protests were held in New York and Spain. It was all in vain.
At 11.05am yesterday, the city council released a short statement confirming the dog had been destroyed.
It said Lennox — which it described as an “illegal pit-bull terrier type” had been “humanely put to sleep” in accordance with the Order of the County Court.
The statement said the council regretted the court action was necessary but “the safety of the public remains its key priority”.
It was met with predictable anger.
A copy of the statement, released on the council’s Facebook page, had attracted more than 6,000 comments by 6pm yesterday — none of them positive. Many campaigners vowed never to visit Belfast in protest.
Meanwhile, Caroline has been left to wait on the delivery of Lennox’s ashes.
Denied the right to bury his body or even to say a final goodbye, the ashes are the only physical link she now has to her pet.
Yet the memories will remain.
Lennox may have died, but his family and supporters have ensured he will never be forgotten.
RIP Lennox: Messages of sympathy pour in
So, so sad. Saw this when I woke up this morning and made me cry. |To the Barnes family, I am so sorry. Lennox was loved by not only his family but also by the world. Don't let Lennox die in vain, let's keep up the fight for other breeds discriminated against.
RIP Lennox, thoughts go out to the family. No need for this, we must fight on to stop it happening again.
Poor, poor dog who suffered two years away from his family. At least his heartbreak over missing his true family has gone. Rest in doggy heaven Lennox.
Tears fill my eyes as I read this. So sad, so sad. |Man’s best friend, my prayers to the family and Lennox. You will not be forgotten.
Teresa Potts Parsons
RIP Lennox. Your death will not be in vain! |You are loved by many around the world and we will stand up for the rights of your doggie brothers and sisters!
The world is mourning for you Lennox. We know it wasn't right and will continue to fight in your name. RIP baby.
RIP Lennox, we all love you! You are free in heaven now.
My heart is broken and I cry tears of deep sorrow for this angel and his family. May the light of God surround you and may you find some lasting peace there.