Recently I heard from a very dedicated campaigner, Denise Day, about the plight of a dog seized under Breed Specific Legislation, which judges a dog’s ‘type’ or appearance and compares it to breeds ruled to be dangerous. The legislation does not refer to any behaviour by the dog, simply on how they appear. Should a dog be judged on appearances alone? This is the story of Lennox. As told by Denise Day.
‘This is a story that has been creating news internationally and has put the city of Belfast in the spotlight.
The story concerns Lennox, a family pet and companion to a 12 year old disabled child, who was wrongfully seized by the Belfast City Authorities under the draconian BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) Act last year.
Lennox is a loveable 5-year American Bull dog Labrador cross that has been part of the family since he was a little pup. As responsible dog owners that also fostered for numerous Northern Ireland dog shelters, his owners had Lennox microchipped, neutered, DNA registered, Pet Safe registered, insured and licensed every year with the Council without fail.
On Wednesday 19th May 2010 Lennox was taken from his family home by Belfast City Council as they believed he came under the dangerous dogs act for Northern Ireland (this despite renewing his license continuously for five years). The Council, without seeking any proper professional guidance, declared Lennox to be a breed of “Pit Bull Type” and wished to kill him simply because he has the appearance of said breed. Belfast City Council wardens took Lennox from his loving family home using a wrongly addressed warrant and using copyright ADBA (American Dog Breeders Association) breed standards guide that the Council were never authorised to use.
What followed the seizure was, we feel, a travesty of justice – while observers looked on, horrified, the council behaved in the most arbitrary manner possible – delaying court dates, not allowing the family to visit Lennox in confinement, not answering messages from concerned people from around the world.
In March this year, after endless court adjournments, a judge ruled Lennox to be put to sleep, despite widespread support for him to be freed. An appeal was filed, and accepted in early April. After many more delays, the appeal will now be heard on 16th September, marking 16 months of confinement for Lennox in BCC kennels. Meanwhile, despite repeated pleas, the family was allowed no access to Lennox, a request for a vet visit was denied, and a photo released secretly showed Lennox in terribly uninhabitable conditions, sitting on sawdust amidst his own faeces, with no drinking water in sight.
This started as a council matter of a dog seizure under BSL (a problematic act in itself given the controversial nature of it, but that’s a different point). But a campaign to save Lennox was launched by family and supporters in Belfast, and slowly, the way some news capture the attention of people – the story of Lennox has gained worldwide support – more than 55,000 people from around the world have signed the petition, the Facebook support group has 35,000 supporters, Embassies in various countries have been written to to intervene, and the Government of Britain has been contacted to help in the matter. The new Mayor of Belfast, the youngest ever who wanted to ‘change things / do them differently’ as per his manifesto, has not bothered to acknowledge the many mails that have been sent to him in this matter.
Moreover, many people have initiated a ‘Boycott Belfast’ campaign and the kind of backlash that has followed on social networking forums and sites everywhere has been immense. Various organizations and rescues from around the world also offered to rehome Lennox out of Belfast, but there has been no response to those requests either. Meanwhile, many well known people from different walks of life have shown their support by sharing the campaign continuously on Twitter and other social networking sites.
Lennox has now already lost more one year of his life in those surroundings. This is now a case of animal cruelty, in addition to being a stinking example of the arbitrariness and high handedness of the Belfast City Council. This is also problematic on other levels – Lennox is a therapy dog to a 12 year old disabled girl, whose health has deteriorated, and school grades suffered since Lennox has been taken away.
The details are available on www.savelennox.co.uk
Lennox’s case also highlights the inadequacies and archaic nature of the BSL – an outdated law which has been banned in many countries in the world now – a law which has no place in a civilized world where profiling based on race and looks is outdated and unacceptable. BSL is causing misery and endless despair to many families in Northern Ireland, whose loving family members are snatched away because – simply – the law permits it.’
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