Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Campaign to Save Belfast Death Row Dog Lennox Gathers Heat, Belfast City Council Sweats

By Periscope @periscopepost
Campaign to save Belfast death row dog Lennox gathers heat, Belfast City Council sweats Belfast dog Lennox is on death row

The background

Lennox, a pit bull-type dog (but not actually a pit bull), has been taken from his disabled owner by Belfast City Council (BCC) under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Lennox has not actually been involved in any dangerous dog acts but has been assessed as a danger to the public by the council’s dog experts due to his unpredictability. Lennox was impounded in 2010 and his family have been fighting for his release since then. The Barnes family have now pretty much exhausted all legal options and, as it stands, the BCC plan to destroy Lennox in the coming days. The council’s hard line (multiple offers from members of the public to re-home Lennox have been rejected) has sparked outrage and a global campaign to save Lennox is now in full swing. Campaigners claim to have attracted 200,000 signatures in support of a reprieve and emotions are running high, reported the BBC.


Lennox’s plight has gone viral on social media and become a worldwide news story. In the US, The Washington Post and CNN (see video below) have covered the story. The uproar has prompted First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson to weigh in via Twitter: “Spoke to Lord Mayor about Lennox. Suggested BCC should seriously look at re-homing option. Why exercise the Order if there’s an alternative?” Boxer Lennox (!) Lewis also tweeted his support for the campaign to spare his namesake’s life: “Why is @BelfastCC intent on killing this dog when other options available?” The Belfast Telegraph reported that it was “inundated with emails and phone calls from all over the world last night as campaigners staged a final effort to save Lennox.” Some warned that “animal rights activists never forget an injustice” while others threatened a boycott of Belfast and Northern Ireland if Lennox is put down.

No Kill New York, a US-based animal rights group, has staged protests outside the British and Irish consulates in the city to plead for Lennox’s life.

Council bites back

The BCC is standing by its decision. In a statement released on 10 June, they said, “the council acknowledges the goodwill on the part of a significant number of people who would wish to have the dog Lennox spared from being humanely put to sleep,” but reminded that “the council has a duty which it performs reluctantly in order to ensure public safety. Re-homing will not deal with the issues in this case – the dog has been found to be unpredictable and dangerous by experts. That view is shared by the courts and the dog is now the subject of an order by the courts.” The council said it would be “reckless and irresponsible” simply to move Lennox to somewhere else where it would pose the same danger to others.

Save Lennox and save face

“One Last Plea to the City of Belfast: Save Lennox and Save Face,” boomed Joan K. Smith at Huffington Post UK, who called for Northern Ireland government to re-home Lennox rather than put him to death and thereby “gracefully demonstrate evenhanded goodwill in the case and thus save face in the eyes of the world.” Perhaps “the most feasible offer currently at hand” comes from celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, said Smith. Stilwel is in Belfast supporting the Barnes family and has has offered to personally cover all costs related to Lennox’s rehoming with her in the United States. Here’s her offer to Belfast City Council: “I now publicly give you my word that if you remand custody of Lennox to me and allow me to take him to a safe place in the U.S., I will not disparage the BCC, the Belfast court system, or those involved with this case in any way moving forward. Indeed, I will publicly recognize the courage that it will take to rise above the divisive voices clamoring on both sides of this issue, follow the law, and yet also show some humanity and allow this dog to live out his final years in peace in the US … All I’m asking is that you recognize the special nature of this case and allow him to leave the country – a result which still allows you to uphold the spirit of the law while avoiding the death of what I and many others consider to be an innocent dog and averting an even more damaging end to what has undoubtedly become a public relations nightmare.”

We’ve got your back Lennox

Writing at NPR’s 13.7 blog, Barbara J. King said, “I know some people will say, why all the energy and tears spent on one dog? Human beings are suffering in wars, famine, and poverty; dogs and cats are euthanized in sad numbers every day.” But she said the case of Lennox “touches us uniquely … Lennox isn’t a symbol; he is a flesh and blood dog who is loved, and who has his own needs and desires. I hope, given how attuned dogs may be to what goes on around them, Lennox somehow knows how many people are standing up for him.

Am gripped by the #savelennox story about poor dog about to be destroyed because of way he looks. @belfastcc – where’s the sense?

— Deborah Joseph (@debsjoseph) July 10, 2012

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