Pitbull Lennox's plight followed throughout the world
The story of Belfast’s death row dog has gone around the world. When the courts here first ordered that six-year-old Lennox was to be destroyed, the pitbull emerged as an icon for tens of thousands of dog lovers.
They don’t view him as a dangerous dog, but an adorable and innocent family pet who has been subjected to a witch-hunt. Caroline Barnes brought Lennox into her north Belfast home when he was just a puppy.
The family say he is the best friend of Caroline’s disabled daughter Brooke (12) and “soul mate” to Juicy the boxer. Lennox’s death row story began on May 19, 2010. It was noted that Lennox was acting aggressively when Belfast City Council dog wardens called at the Barnes home in Disraeli Court for a routine check regarding an expired licence.
Senior dog warden Alexandra Lightfoot suspected Lennox was a dangerous breed and tried to measure him, without success.
She claimed the dog was “bouncing on all fours” and hit her in the face with his muzzled jaw, sending her crashing to the ground. Lennox was then taken to council kennels.
Immediately, Caroline Barnes set up the website savelennox.co.uk which attracted worldwide attention with respondents from across Europe, the US and Australia.
Some 44,470 have shown support for the Save Lennox Facebook page and a staggering 106,217 signed the Save And Release Lennox petition, for the attention of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. This emotive case took a sinister turn when threatening letters, drenched in petrol, were sent to two female dog wardens’ homes.
Following abusive emails, windows at Yolanda Elwood’s home were smashed, her car tyres were slashed and her son was also subjected to abuse.
Under the Dangerous Dogs (NI) Order 1991, pitbull terrier-type dogs are banned.
While it has never been recorded that Lennox has ever bitten anyone, experts concluded he was, indeed, from the banned breed and it was decided that he should be destroyed.
Ms Barnes, a former veterinary nurse, broke down in court back in March, saying she felt she had betrayed her daughter by failing to save their family dog from being put down. Brooke (12), who suffers from chronic asthma, wrote a letter to Belfast City Council asking it to save her best friend.
At a hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court on March 29, District Judge Ken Nixon ignored the family’s desperate pleas to release the dog.
He ruled that the dog’s “total unpredictability” made it a danger to the general public under the Dangerous Dogs (NI) Order, leaving Ms Barnes and her family heartbroken.
The Barnes family say that Lennox, who has been DNA registered, neutered, licensed, micro-chipped and insured, is an American bull cross, and is being put to death simply for the way he looks.
Their petition pleaded: ‘If this was a human we would declare this racism.
‘We ask every kind hearted person for your support, don't let them murder him.’
The family launched an appeal and in court last week it was revealed that Lennox was on an anti-depressant called amitriptyline, following a “kennel stress” issue where the majority of his coat hair fell out.
Dog warden Alexandra Lightfoot said anxiety medication had “mellowed” Lennox but added that he remained “a danger to the public and anyone around him”.
Ms Lightfoot said that from the thousands of dogs she has encountered in her 25-year career as a warden, Lennox was “probably the most unpredictable and aggressive” of her four-legged clients.
Sarah Fisher, a dog behaviour expert, gave evidence in the dog’s defence, but Peter Tallack, a retired dog handler who had been with the Met Police for 26 years, described the dog as “a problem waiting to happen”.
Belfast City Council confirmed Lennox is currently at a secret location, to protect council staff and ensure activists don’t try to abduct him.
Yesterday, at the final day of the appeal case at Belfast County Court District, Judge Henry Rodgers decided not to spare Lennox.
The conclusion of this 16-month affair is that Lennox does pose a danger to the public and he is a ‘menace to society’ rather than ‘man’s best friend’.