Belfast Telegraph

Why pick on dog like Lennox when there are scarier beasts out there?

By Lindy McDowell

The aim of the weedy looking lad in the baseball cap was apparently to take the two Rottweilers for a walk. It would be fair to say, though, that actually they were taking him.

As they powered along straining on their chain leads he was doing the dry-land version of water-skiing behind them, desperately trying to exert some sort of braking control.

Then, from my car window I saw her ... the middle-aged woman coming walking towards them with a young and highly excitable terrier pup yapping boldly on her lead.

Oh-oh! Somehow the poor woman managed to scoop her wee dog up out of danger as our man in the baseball cap trailed the snarling, lunging Rottweilers around her on the pavement.

It was a horrible moment. You could see in her eyes she was absolutely terrified about what could have happened. But, in the end, thankfully, no harm done.

Just another everyday incidence of Scary Dog Syndrome.

Dodgy, big dogs being paraded as a sort of macho accessory have become almost a cult in Belfast. You sometimes get the impression that in parts of the city, ownership of some form of domesticated wolf is now regarded as a rite of passage for the youthful urban male.

None of this, of course, is the fault of the poor animals. The likes of Rottweilers, well looked after and well controlled, don't represent a problem in themselves.

It's when dangerous dogs end up in the "care" of those who either mistreat them or - just as bad - underestimate their power and menace that tragedy tends to follow.

But just how do the authorities police this potential threat?

The case of Lennox the dog, currently on canine Death Row, having been found guilty of being a "dangerous breed", highlights the complexities of the situation.

On the face of it - and I have seen his photograph - Lennox does not look like a dog to trifle with. He's described as a cross between an American bulldog and a Labrador crossed with a Staffordshire bull terrier. Which is a whole lot of cross.

Lennox's downfall appears to be that he takes after the bull terrier side of the family. He has been impounded because he has been deemed a banned American pitbull-type dog.

But Lennox's owner, who is, tellingly, a former veterinary nurse, denies that he is. He has been neutered, licensed, micro-chipped, insured and DNA registered, she says.

He was kept leashed in public and wore a muzzle.

Poignantly, a disabled child in the family is said to be breaking her heart over the absence of her pet. And an online campaign has attracted tens of thousands of messages of support from as far away as the United States.

The council points out that it is unable to make comment before the case is heard. But it maintains that dog wardens were acting within the law in lifting Lennox.

A spokesman points out: "The council doesn't make the law; it is merely the enforcing authority."

And herein lies the crux of the dilemma. Lennox, much loved and obviously well-cared for by responsible owners is a victim of the public backlash against truly dangerous dogs. The problem is that rules on ascertaining breed don't always give an innocent mongrel the benefit of the doubt.

In this case hopefully some (humane) compromise can be reached.

But you have to wonder, if the authorities believe muzzled, chipped and well-controlled Lennox represents a threat, what about all those other much scarier beasts prowling our streets towing tattooed yobs in their wake?

Who's reining them in?

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