I’m sure by now most people have heard about Lennox, the pitbull type dog that was senselessly euthanized in Belfast Ireland on July 11th. Some may have heard about it, but dismissed it, choosing not to get involved. As they say, “ignorance is bliss”! I can’t get this poor dog or his family off my mind. What had he done wrong? Absolutely nothing except be born looking like a pitbull. He was in fact an American Bull Dog/Lab cross. Belfast has what they call the “Dangerous Dog Act”. It’s what we call Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) or Breed Discriminatory Legislation (BDL) in the US. In short, it’s a law or laws that make it illegal to own a dog that is or looks like a certain breed. Most of these laws apply to Pitbull “type” dogs. I use the word type because pitbull isn’t really a breed unto itself. We’ve all heard stories about dogs being taken from their homes because owning them is against the law in certain towns and cities. In a lot of these cases the dog can be re-homed to an area where there are no such laws. And there were actually people, even celebrities lined up to give Lennox a new home in another country. But he wasn’t so lucky. After being taken from his loving family he was housed in the local dog pound, where he stayed for 2 years while a court battle over his fate played out.
He was evaluated by a supposed “expert”, aka the local dog constable who has no education in dog behavior what so ever, and reported to be dangerous. However, after being imprisoned for 1 year, some real experts were actually called in to evaluate him. Sarah Fisher and David Ryans, both credentialed behaviorists, both evaluated Lennox and reported finding him to be a safe and friendly dog. Both opinions were shot down by the Belfast City Council. At this point his story sort of went viral. It was all over facebook and on the internet. I’m not sure if it was reported by the tv news media, but I would not be surprised if it wasn’t given that they demonize of certain types of dogs. His fate was sealed it seems from the moment he was taken to the pound. And the court battle ragged on for another year…all the while, poor Lennox remained imprisoned. Sarah Fisher reported during her evaluation at the 1 year point that his physical condition wasn’t good. He was loosing some of his fur and had sores on his body. Now, anybody that works or volunteers in an animal shelter can tell you that being sheltered for a long period of time can be, and most often is, very detrimental to a dog, mentally and emotionally. Even in the best shelters we have, the animals are very stressed and all that stress takes it’s toll.
At some point during Lennox’s ordeal, his family had been told that they could visit him on his last night on earth, and should he end up being euthanized, that they could have his body back so that they could choose his final resting place. This was not to be the case. The Belfast City Council flat out refused to let the family see him. They also refused to let his body be returned to them. They wouldn’t even return his collar to them. Instead his family was told that they would receive his ashes in the mail after he was cremated. When the news of this broke, everyone kept asking why. Why won’t they return his body. I wondered myself, why…and then it hit me. In my opinion, he was probably in such bad shape that had his body been released and the public seen that he had been neglected and left to rot, the City of Belfast would have had a riot on their hands. By destroying his body, there is no proof of any wrong doing on their part. What really saddens me in all of this is that this poor innocent dog languished in lousy conditions with very little human interaction and enrichment. Under any other circumstances that would be considered abuse! I’ve seen first hand what just one week spent in a shelter can do to a dog…Lennox was in the pound, not even a shelter, for 2 YEARS! At that point, he probably was no longer sane.
We cannot ever let this happen to another dog…no, to another family pet! If there is proposed BSL or BDL where you live, educate yourself about what it really is and what it really means to all dog owners. It’s not the answer to keeping society safe from dog bites.
And Lennox…I’m sorry for what you endured and I hope you’re romping and playing at Rainbow Bridge!