It’s been a year since Lennox was killed by the Belfast City Council. Lennox was an American Bulldog mix that was taken from his home because he looked like a pitbull, a breed type that is banned in Northern Ireland. He’d lived without incident as part of the Barnes family for five years. He had been licensed, DNA tested and ‘legal’ until the council decided he was a banned breed and locked him up, keeping him in a secret location away from his family while they desperately fought for his release. Sadly Lennox lost his life on July 11th 2012 after a two year battle to save him. His devastated family has tried to pick up the pieces ever since.
Lennox became a tragic symbol of the pain and suffering created by Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). He was an innocent dog that was persecuted for the way he looked. However hard the Barnes family fought to get their dog back, Lennox was doomed as soon as he was taken from his home. Belfast City Council did everything they could to ensure they would ‘win’ the fight and no amount of expert testimony from the defense could sway the courts into thinking any different. Human ego battled truth, and ego won.
A year after Lennox had been taken, the Barnes family got in touch with me and I agreed to give a truthful evaluation of his behavior after reviewing the entire video of Lennox’s first behavioral assessment performed by behavior expert David Ryan. I read his detailed written report as well as the report provided by the council’s expert. Interestingly, the council’s expert was only brought in to take Lennox’s measurements and not to assess his behavior. He wasn’t a trainer, nor was he versed in the complexities of canine behavior. In his written report, however, he not only concluded that Lennox was of pitbull type but also finished the report by giving his opinion on Lennox’s behavior, saying that Lennox was a ‘dangerous dog.’ It was this opinion that was given more weight by the courts than David Ryan’s detailed behavioral assessment and the subsequent second thorough assessment given by dog trainer and behavioral expert Sarah Fisher. Their combined years of experience in canine behavior and their detailed and truthful findings far outweighed any behavioral expertise by the council’s expert, but these findings were dismissed and devalued by the courts. Even though I submitted my report, I was never called in as a witness nor was I allowed to go and evaluate Lennox myself, even when I expressly asked for access months before his death.
I was impressed that Lennox let himself be handled by people that were strangers to him even though he was in a terrible state. Here was a dog that had been taken from his family and put in a shelter surrounded by strange people and other dogs. The sudden transition must have been very traumatic for him as well as the resulting loneliness and depression he felt. The Barnes family told me that Lennox had sensitive skin, which they managed well, so when he was taken from them his coat was in good condition. A year later his body was covered in bald patches and wounds that were red and sore and even though he was in considerable discomfort, this ‘dangerous dog’ still didn’t bite a single person. He was put on the drug amitriptyline, a tricyclic anti depressant that helps ease depression and is also used to manage pain. The fact that he was put on this drug was clear evidence that Lennox was in a bad way, both physically and mentally. Sarah Fisher also noted during her assessment that Lennox was very sensitive around his neck and that he was holding himself in a way that clearly told her he was in some discomfort. When dogs are stressed or feel pain they can respond aggressively especially when touched in a sore area. Lennox lunged at David Ryan once when he had him in a corner and bent over him to attach a leash to the collar he was wearing around his sensitive neck. At such close proximity Lennox could have severely bitten Ryan but chose to warn him out of his space instead. This showed me that Lennox had incredible bite inhibition. This was his only lunge throughout both assessments. I reiterate again that during his two years of stress, pain and being handled by strangers he never bit anyone, yet the council’s expert, a large, imposing man with a strong voice who handled Lennox himself while measuring him, called him one of the most dangerous dogs he had ever seen. He did so because he misread and misunderstood some of the seemingly strange behavior Lennox displayed during his time with him. Lennox laid down with his back to the man and didn’t move even when the man came into his kennel run. He allowed the strange man to leash him, lead him out of the run, measure him, bring him back, unleash him, walk out and only then did Lennox lunge at the kennel door as he walked away. This behavior concerned the man and he wrote his report accordingly. I have worked in rescue shelters for nearly twenty years and this is very typical kennel behavior especially from dogs that are stressed and fearful.
I know the details of the council’s witness because not only did I read his report but I also sat and talked face to face with him a few months ago about his part in the Lennox case. We had battled each other on radio shows and articles on the internet. He had even tried to bring legal action against me for speaking out and giving my informed opinion about the disastrousness of the case, but we had never met. When we finally sat down with one another it was tense, but we ended up having a civil conversation. It was evident to me that he clearly didn’t understand Lennox’s very typical stressed kennel behavior, but however misguided he was in this case; he was a man that had a desire to keep the public safe from dangerous dogs and truly believed that what he was doing was right.
This Is A Partial Excerpt Of The Full Article, To Read The Complete Article By Victoria Stilwell Click On The Link Below:
The Fight For Lennox – A Year Later
- 5 Years On & The Pain Remains!
- London Anti BSL Protest 2016
- April 1st Marks Lennox 11th Birthday
- ‘When You Killed Lennox’
- Museum Of Compassion
- The Lennox Campaign Annual Warm Cold Nose Event
- Lennox Remembered On His 2nd Anniversary
- Lennox Remembered On 9th Birthday
- An Act Of Dog “5500 Project”
- The Fight For Lennox – Victoria Stilwell
- Lennox 2005 – 2012
- Doris Banham Dog Rescue Appeal
- Remember Lennox On His 8th Birthday
- In Loving Memory Of Sarah Brown
- Where Is His Collar?