Saturday, 14 July 2012

Dog fight

An acri-monious worldwide campaign to save Lennox the dog ended this week when he was put down by Belfast Council.

The council maintained Lennox was a pit-bull type dog and therefore illegal and dangerous under UK law. Owner Caroline Barnes insisted he was harmless and had never injured anyone.

A huge internet campaign to save Lennox got more and more vicious, with the council's dog wardens being subjected to death threats, slashed car tyres and ferocious verbal abuse.

The case dragged on through several expensive court hearings before the council finally got the go-ahead to put Lennox down. Caroline Barnes is still bitterly aggrieved and sees the council as heartless and inflexible.

At the last minute an American dog trainer offered to care for Lennox for the rest of his life, but the council rejected the offer, saying the dog was dangerous and had to be destroyed.

I can't see why this sympathetic offer was so firmly refused. At least Lennox would still be alive. But refused it was, adding to the family's suffering.

I have to say though that in general Caroline Barnes seems to have handled the situation very badly. Apparently she made little attempt to establish the dog's actual breed or find any other legal way of contesting the council's ruling. And she allowed her so-called supporters to alienate council staff with a terrifying hate campaign.

Also, she must have known Lennox was a pit-bull type dog, and therefore possibly illegal, when she acquired him seven years ago. So it was likely that sooner or later he would be reported to the authorities.

If she had had any sense, she would have found a dog that was indisputably legal and therefore never in danger of being put down. It would have saved an awful lot of unnecessary distress and heartbreak.

PS (July 20): An innocent animal sanctuary, Benvardin Kennels near Ballymoney, is being bombarded with threats and abuse by pro-Lennox fanatics. Benvardin say they have nothing whatever to do with Lennox and blame an incorrect American media report. 

Pic: Caroline Barnes, her daughter Brooke, and Lennox 


Secret Agent Woman said...

It's illegal for people in the UK to own pit bulls? That's really interesting. Personally, I can't see any compelling argument for allowing the breeding of dangerous dogs. I have no doubt that there are some who are sweethearts, but as a breed they are aggressive. Why in the world would someone take one as a pet knowing the law? It's like planting marijuana and then getting bent out of shape when it's confiscated and destroyed.

Nick said...

Agent - Your comment about marijuana sums it up. Surely she knew what the law was on pit bulls?

Scarlet Blue said...

Best place to get a dog is from a decent rescue centre.
Oh dear, this is all too sad.

Scarlet Blue said...

My comment will be visible after approval? Are you having bother, Nick?

Nick said...

Scarlet - That would certainly avoid the problem of having an illegal dog.

I had a sudden inexplicable torrent of spam. Word check didn't stop it, but comment moderation has wiped out the spam completely.

Macy said...

Putting a dog down, even a dog that could be dangerous in the wrong hands when there is another perfectly good alternative is just plain wrong in my books.

Nick said...

Macy - Hmmm, but how do we know which are the wrong hands? I've heard the argument that any dog can be dangerous if it's handled in the wrong way, but isn't it still true that some breeds are inherently more dangerous than others?

I still don't understand, though, why Lennox couldn't have gone to the dog trainer in the States.

Cheerful Monk said...

Fortunately in the U.S. there are groups fighting anti-pit-bull laws. They're not always successful but sometimes they are.

It's too bad the owner didn't get a DNA test. You often can't tell a dog's heritage by its looks.

I do think it's stupid that the dog trainer in the U.S. couldn't have taken Lennox. It would have done a lot to defuse the situation.

JohnD said...

October 7 2011
" ...A new law was implemented in Victoria, Australia last week that will lead to the seizure and killing of any dog fitting the criteria for an unregistered restricted breed found after the law goes into effect.

Targeted breeds include the American pit bull terrier, perro de presa canario, dogo Argentino, Japanese tosa and fila Brasileiro. Anyone with a look-alike will need will need to show papers or a certificate from a veterinarian as proof.

In addition to registering their dogs, owners will have to prove that their dogs are spayed/neutered, microchipped, kept in an inescapable enclosure, muzzled and leashed off of their property and accompanied by someone at least 17 years old. Owners may also be fined up to $4,885 if they lose control of their dog and $2,442 if their dog escapes, or they move without notifying authorities, according to the AP....."

Read more:

kylie said...

funnily enough, the majority of dog bites come from the adorable, trusted golden retriever.

it's pretty disgraceful that there was a willing adopter for the dog but bureaucracy refused.

as for people choosing "dangerous" dogs, well the dog was already here, somebody had to have it.

Simon said...

Lennox was an American Bulldog x Labrador. Caroline Barnes had A DNA test done that confirmed that. As far saying she should have bought a legal breed is concerned, have a look at pictures of 8 week old bull breed puppies and crosses of them. They are pretty much indistinguishable whether a legal breed or otherwise, so it's unlikely that any purchaser would be able to identify an illegal breed. In fact the police do not attempt to identify a dog as being illegal under 9 months of age.

Nick said...

Monk: The newspaper report said her dogs were DNA registered, but I'm not sure what that means. Simon (below) says a DNA test indicated Lennox was an American Bulldog/Labrador cross. In which case, why was this not accepted by the council?

John D: That's pretty draconian. I see it's a response to some serious attacks by dogs, though dog experts question whether the new law will actually reduce attacks.

Nick said...

Kylie: Most bites come from the Golden Retriever? I can't find any confirmation of that. What's your source?

I really don't understand why the adoption offer wasn't taken up.

Simon: Thanks for that. Are you a friend of the family, by any chance? So you're saying she bought the dog at such a young age she couldn't have known for certain what breed it was until the DNA test was done?

Simon said...

I'm not a friend of the family, but I've observed the case for two years since he was seized. The reason why the DNA profile wasn't accepted in court was because it is solely dependent on appearance. Parentage, DNA and registration documents are not taken into consideration. The decision to release him to another home was purely down to the councils discretion, why they didn't, I don't know, but there's plenty of theories out there as to why they didn't. As far as I know, she was aware of the parentage when she got him, the DNA profile authenticated that. The problem with the DDA, is that it presumes that a dog of certain measurements is a dangerous dog by appearance and not temperament or act.

Nick said...

Simon - Thanks again. If that's the case, that a dog is deemed dangerous simply by its appearance, that's obviously absurd. Like saying a human being is dangerous because of their appearance!

Bijoux said...

I've about had it recently with dog owners. Some man actually swore at me because HIS dog ran after me on a city sidewalk and I yelled at the dog to stop.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I've lost count of the number of times dogs chase after me or pester me and the owners just mutter some feeble apology. They should train their dogs properly.

Nick said...

Simon: So what are these theories about why the adoption offer was refused? Or are they all too contentious to repeat?

kylie said...

sorry, i cant quote my source nick! i saw that bit of info on a tv show some time ago, i think after a little girl was killed in a dog attack.

Nick said...

Kylie: Anyway, I think the point is that a dog's breed doesn't necessarily mean it's dangerous. As I said earlier, it seems a lot depends on how the dog is handled.

Scarlet Blue said...

Kylie is right about the Golden Retriever stats - I've read this too.
People are more likely to leave children with a breed they perceive as being friendly - hence the stats.
A child should never be left alone with any dog... and I have the scars to prove it.
At the age of 4 I had my top lip bitten badly by a poodle. Hospital and stitches featured.
I can still pout but my top lip is now thinner than it ought to be... oh... and I nearly lost an eye.


Nick said...

Scarlet: Jeez, that sounds like a really horrifying attack. Lucky you weren't more seriously hurt.

Good point about children being left more often with a "friendly" breed, which is why that breed might have distorted injury statistics.

Wisewebwoman said...

Jeebus, Nick, I have only the one opinion on this and that is; you dog owners out there, train and keep your dog under strict control at all times.
Dogs get a bad name from bad owners not from the breed per see. if you get a volatile unpredictable breed then it should not be exposed to others, particularly children and leashed at all times.
It is stupidly simple but dog owners are the ones who should be licensed not the poor dog. My rescue dog took me 2 YEARS to trains.
People should not get involved with animals unless they adhere to strict regulations.

Nick said...

www - Absolutely. Get your dog properly trained, however long that takes, and then keep a close watch on it at all times so it isn't a public danger. Is that so hard to understand?

Simon said...

I'm not sure why the dog wasn't exempted and rehomed. There are legal issues and conspiracy theories that abound despite it being an available option. On a side note I don't think some breeds are more inherently dangerous than others. For me that's a general and widely seen misconception that has caused an issue with certain breeds. If you look at the pass rate in temperament testing by the American Temperament Test Society who test dogs on their reliability around humans, American Pit Bull Terriers, Anerican Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers all have a higher pass rate than Golden Retrievers and a whole host of other dogs generally regarded as "safe" family pets.

Nick said...

Simon: What you say about temperament testing is interesting. Clearly popular ideas about which breeds are dangerous and which are safe aren't always borne out by the facts.

Anonymous said...

It's true that the Dangerous Dogs Act was rushed and flawed, and that dogs I'd cross the road to avoid may not fall within its remit.
I also know a lovely gentle Staffy - that I'd still never leave alone with a child.
It's a sad story - people who don't love dogs don't get the strength of bonds between them and people - and are prone to dismiss them too quickly.
But when it's people, especially children v. dogs - I'd err on the side of caution.
Whatever happened to the old solution to dogs who bit police officers? A spell south of the border.

Nick said...

Paul - You're right, any dog that's near a child needs to be watched very closely, however safe the breed is thought to be. Even the most docile dog can sometimes turn aggressive.

Baino said...

Well not letting the American take the dog is just bureaucracy gone mad. WE have similar restrictions on 'dangerous' breeds but I doubt we'd put one down given a more humane alternative. Get a labrador...they'll lick you to death.

Nick said...

Baino: Exactly. I can't understand why the humane alternative wasn't acceptable to Belfast Council. It seems like sheer malice.