The Story of Lennox – how an innocent dog paid the price so government bureaucrats could save face
Despite a personal plea from Northern Ireland’s First Minister, an offer to re-home the pup in the United States by popular trainer, Victoria Stilwell, and an outpouring of support and pleas from literally hundreds of thousands of global supporters, the Belfast City Council (BCC), decided to carry out their decision to euthanize Lennox, a dog whose only transgression was that he resembled a pit bull.
I’ve been following this story for over two years. The dog was taken in May 2010 from its family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, because Northern Ireland passed breed specific legislation (BSL) and Lennox appeared to fit the requirement. The dog was then incarcerated for over two years until it was euthanized Wednesday, January 11.
This story is heart-wrenching for the family who fought for over two years to free their pet, and for the literally hundreds of thousands of global “Save Lennox” supporters who deluged the Belfast City Council with emails, letters, and phone calls, both polite and unfortunately, in some case abusive. The Belfast City Council, in its decision to incarcerate and destroy Lennox, relied on erroneous testimony from its dog warden, who was not a qualified animal behaviorist, and in fact was photographed with this “dangerous” dog. Following is an excerpt from the Barnes’ family’s petition to the First and Deputy Minister of Northern Ireland:
Lennox is a loveable 5 year old family member. He’s an American Bull dog cross that we have owned since he was a little pup. On Wednesday the 19th May 2010 he was taken from our family home by Belfast City Council as they believe he falls under the dangerous dogs act for Northern Ireland. The Council, without seeking any proper professional guidance declared Lennox to be a breed of “Pitbull Type” and so they wish to kill him simply because he has the appearance of said breed. Lennox has never attacked anyone or anything yet the council have removed him from his home
Two years of campaigning, meetings, and legal battles by the family and its supporters failed to convince the BCC that they erred in removing the dog from the family. The Council, rather than admitting their error, showing some humanity, and using an available exemption to the law that was available, instead dug in their heels, and catapulted the story into a worldwide cause celebre and public relations nightmare.
The Council’s intransigence and ignorance was apparent when they refused to meet with Victoria Stilwell, who presented them with a viable alternative of rehoming the dog in the United States at no cost to the Council. Instead, the public humiliation of the past two years from the media attention and the ongoing petitions and efforts by the family and its supporters, only hardened their positions and apparently, their hearts. The family was not permitted a final visit nor to even see the remains of their beloved pet. They cowardly hid behind the law, rather than do the right thing.
When I look at this story in its entirety, I am reminded of the words, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It’s a clear example of when bureaucrats make mistakes, cannot or refuse to admit them, and then ordinary people pay the price.
There are lessons to be learned here, about people, their government and bureaucracy, and when the latter two spin out of control. We are already experiencing our own forms of “Lennox” as government slowly creeps and intrudes into our lives, until we, too, will one day pay the ultimate price. The loss of our freedom and liberty.
Rest in peace, Lennox. Your struggle is over. Our’s is just beginning.