By: Jackie Morrison
No complaints, no bites, legally licensed by the Belfast City Council (BCC), and the beloved dog of a young girl, Lennox the Labrador/American Bulldog mix was put to death by the Belfast City Council (BCC) on July 11, 2012. Celebrity dog trainers Cesar Millan and Victoria Stilwell had both offered to rehome Lennox to the United States at their expense but the BCC refused. Even Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson intervened in the controversy, urging council members and the Lord Mayor to seriously consider the rehoming option, but he too failed. Nothing could convince the BCC to release Lennox. The world pleaded, other celebrities and politicians joined in the protest, but Belfast was committed to putting Lennox to death. Innocent to the end, the tragic dog was murdered for the crime of looking like a Pit Bull.
Lennox was NOT a Pit Bull—a DNA test confirmed that he was a mixture of Labrador and American Bulldog. Yet his appearance, based on a measuring tape conducted by BCC dog wardens, concluded that he was enough of a possible Pit Bull type to enforce the 1991 Dangerous Dog Act (DDA). This gave them the power to seize Lennox without warrant and confine him in an undisclosed location for two years. Ironically, when dog wardens visited the home of Lennox’s owners they were not looking for him, but saw the dog and deemed him “of type.” Lennox was five years old at the time, and the comforting companion animal of then 11-year-old Brooke Barnes. The young girl was devastated at the seizure of Lennox, but it was only the beginning.
For the next two years the legal drama included conflicting statements among BCC wardens and respected canine behaviorists. The Barnes family had no idea where Lennox was until disturbing photos surfaced showing the dog with trauma throughout his body and hair loss. A leaked video surfaced that depicted further abuse inflicted on Lennox by BCC employees. Petitions were started, signatures soared, and social media swelled with messages of support and outrage. The shouts for clemency fell on deaf ears as the BCC refused all pleas to release Lennox. After the videos and pictures of Lennox’s appalling conditions were made public many supporters suspected that he was already dead. Between requests for proof of life from the likes of Stilwell and other public figures, the BCC was adamant in refusing to disclose Lennox’s location or give evidence that he was alive.
As the final moments towards the execution drew near, candles around the world were lit, prayers were made, and an angry public began to threaten the BCC for their decision. The only legal hope that Lennox had left was The Queen. Petitions called out for the British Monarch to grant him amnesty by Royal decree, but no sovereign came to his aid. Lennox had become an international symbol of corruption and unconscionable cruelty. He was an animal who had no complaints against him, had never attacked anyone, and was loved by a responsible family who kept him muzzled when out in the public.
When Lennox was killed the BCC continued their campaign of pain against the Barnes family by refusing to allow them to say good-bye to their much-loved pet. The BCC also refused to return his collar to Brooke, now 13, and instead will only give his ashes to the grieving girl. There is no way to determine whether Lennox actually died on July 11, 2012, as allegations of a cover up circulate the Internet. Many people have speculated that the stubborn position of the BCC may have been a cover for something else. Suspicions abound that Lennox had long ago died in custody and that all efforts to rescue him from death row failed because the Council wanted to hide the truth. Stilwell’s Facebook page is full of comments and demands for answers. Sympathy has poured in from around the world towards the Barnes family for their unfathomably senseless loss. Stilwell herself refuted BCC representative live on British radio.
Lennox was NOT a Pit Bull. Even if he had been he had no history of violence. His death represents an extreme form of breed discrimination. To many, it was canine genocide. Rest in Peace Lennox. Hopefully the outcry of your pain and sorrow will be enough for the introduction of a Private Member’s Bill in the British House of Commons demanding a full public inquiry into the BCC’s actions. Justice is much deserved for Lennox Barnes and the ones who loved him.
Yes, there have been Pit Bulls who have been vicious, but the opposite is also true. I have had German Shepherds since I was five years old. They are my “heart breed.” A German Shepherd has been my protector and best friend my whole life. If I were a billionaire and a lawyer my entire life would be dedicated to philanthropic causes that would definitely include the care and guardianship of all German Shepherds. Despite my love of the breed I know that there are German Shepherds whom I would never approach or wish to be around. Is it the breed? No. There were some bloodlines that through human tampering became violent without provocation or warning. Yet such lineages are not representative of an entire breed.
Photo: Lennox as a puppy with Brooke Barnes
Photo credit: Caroline Barnes and Family