Love of dogs should not generate hatred
It is often said that we are a nation of dog lovers and that would seem to be borne out by the reaction to a Belfast judge's decision to order a pitbull-type dog to be put down. A website set up to campaign for the dog, Lennox, to be saved crashed as supporters posted notices of sympathy to the owners. Indeed, the campaign had gone global and gain support as far away as Canada and Australia.
There is no doubt that the decision to have the dog destroyed - although the judge allowed 21 days grace before the order was enforced - is a bitter blow to its owners, the Barnes family.
They obviously cared deeply for the animal and feel that no matter what the law says, it was not a danger either to them or to other people.
But court decisions cannot be based on emotion, only facts, and the evidence presented to the courts by Belfast City Council left the judge with no option.
And, as the City Council pointed out, if Lennox attacked someone in the future, both the council and the courts would be pilloried for letting the dog live. What is also evident is that the dangerous dogs legislation needs clarification.
That could have led to a quicker resolution of this case and prevented the huge costs of several court hearings, paid for from the public purse.
However it is a necessary law given the popularity among some people for keeping pitbulls and similar breeds of dog.
These are enormously powerful animals which could severely injure or kill a person and the protection of people should always take precedence over the love of animals.
While there is no suggestion of any involvement by the Barnes family, the campaign of intimidation waged against City Council staff during the legal battles over Lennox is to be utterly deplored.
People who were simply doing their job and enforcing the law were threatened.
One woman had the tyres of her car slashed as it sat outside her home and another had a letter drenched in petrol shoved through her letterbox.
Hopefully those perpetrators will also face the courts some time.