Bid to save Lennox from destruction fails

Published Tuesday, 12 June 2012
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A Belfast woman has failed in a final attempt to spare the life of her pit bull terrier-type dog.

Bid to save Lennox from destruction fails
Lennox was seized by dog wardens two years ago. (© Pacemaker)

Northern Ireland's most senior judges rejected Caroline Barnes legal bid to overturn an order for the destruction of her pet, Lennox.

The seven-year-old animal was seized by City Council officials in May 2010.

Two lower courts have already ruled that it should be put down because it poses a risk to the public under dangerous dogs legislation.

Ms Barnes, 35, had accepted her pet was a pit bull type, but claimed there had been a failure to properly consider a possible exemption scheme.

Her legal team went before the Court of Appeal seeking to compel the County Court judge who confirmed the destruction order to state a case on points of law.

They argued that the animal has never bitten anyone and has behaved impeccably since being impounded.

He (the County Court judge) found as a fact, as he was fully entitled to do on the evidence, that the dog could not be rendered safe.

Lord Justice Girvan

According to Ms Barnes' lawyers, the dog has not been given the chance to show it can be made safe.

The decision that Lennox should be put down came after amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act were extended to Northern Ireland in 2011.

The new legislation introduced a discretionary element to automatic destruction for pit bull-types, based on whether the animal is deemed a danger to the public.

A major campaign has been waged to save Lennox, including an online petition which has attracted huge support.

But with Ms Barnes not in attendance on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal verdict appeared to spell the end.

Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and Lord Justice Higgins, set out how dog wardens who tried to examine and measure Lennox in May 2010 were told by a man it would "rip their head off".

An expert dog handler retained by the City Council concluded that the dog had a severe personality defect.

He considered that it had a problem with strangers and said it was impossible to determine when the dog would be under stress.

Conflicting evidence was given by Ms Barnes' expert, who described Lennox as well-handled and a wonderful family dog.

Lord Justice Girvan rejected arguments that the County Court judge failed to properly consider provisions in the 2011 Act when concluding that local authorities in Northern Ireland have no facilities to issue exemption certificates.

"He found as a fact, as he was fully entitled to do on the evidence, that the dog could not be rendered safe by the imposition of a scheme of conditions designed to render it safe," Lord Justice Girvan said.

"The judge had heard evidence on the issues relating to this dog over a protracted two day hearing, carefully considered the evidence and the issues and he reached conclusions of fact which have not been vitiated by any error of law on his part."

Backing the earlier decision, he added: "Accordingly we must dismiss the application to compel the judge to state a case."

© UTV News
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343 Comments
Luiza in Brazil wrote (865 days ago):
I know this is the law in Northen Ireland but Victoria Stilwell had offered to rehome Lennox in US in a sanctuary. The NI's Law don't apply in US as far as I'm concerned! Why Murder him then? Sending him to US didn't mean lack of responsbility or loss of power!!! There was a great offer on the table and not just Victoria's but Cesar Millan's as well.. In my opinion Lennox was a battle field for egos, for power strugle, for people willing to show off as powerfull.... I am sorry Lennox was a victim of "human,s" vanity and lack of compassion not just for him but for tha Barnes family too. Correct if I am wrong but thinking about the information I've got, there is another point to consider : When the new em emendment of the law was made, a lot of families already had their pets at home. Then what are you gonna do? Kill them all in order to fit the law? If a I was living in NI and had a big dog I would manage to fins him a home abroad and send him away...to save his life in time.. Reading about Lennox om the web, I've came to know about several similar cases in UK... I'm horrified because it seems to me like a dog hunt!!! All of you pat owners and animal lovers have may simpathy and may prayers... <3
RJ in Kilrea wrote (866 days ago):
it is the Law of the Land the council is only applying the Act of the Assembly so therefore it is only carrying out their duty as regulated by law. i feel sorry for Lennex and the family but so long as the Law of Northern Ireland says the dog is illegal then it is illegal and the council is right to comply with the Law. can't believe this reached the news though UTV must have a lot of time on their hand. RIP Lennex and sorry to the family.
Kathleen O. in U.K wrote (866 days ago):
Was this dog running loose in the streets when first hauled in ? In most of the pictures of it when its outside- looks like it was kept in a concrete yard.If it was as docile as we are told- why was it necessary to be picked up by the dog wardens ?
Maria in Dublin Ireland wrote (866 days ago):
Please some people whom are commenting on Belfast council and who state shame of Ireland shame on the Irish please note Belfast is part of Northern Ireland I.e the U.K this was English law that was enforced here. Apart for that my sincere condolences to the family of Lennox it just seems like madness on every level
Derek in Co. Antrim wrote (867 days ago):
Thousands of messages of support worldwide for Lennox to try to save his life. Countless court cases and appeals by his family, and strong campaigns by well known dog behaviourists and radio celebrities. All ignored by the Authorities - Shame on them! Lennox was taken from his family and imprisioned for 2 years and condemmed to death, all because someone thought he looked dangerous.
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