Across the globe, animal lovers were united in outrage this week, following the euthanization of a dog in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A two-year international campaign to save Lennox, an American Bulldog/Labrador mix with no history of aggression or behavioral issues, ended on Wednesday with the announcment from City Council officials that the 7-year-old dog had been killed.
Lennox's life was cut short not because of any unsavory deed or dangerous act that he had committed, but solely because of his appearance.
Under the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act legislation, which makes it illegal to own certain types of dog without a specific exemption from a court, Lennox was seized from his owners in April 2010 by dog wardens who had deemed him to be a public danger because he resembled a "possible Pit Bull-type".
Lennox spent two years in a municipal dog pound while his owner Carol Barnes and Belfast City Council (BCC) battled in the courts. Barnes argued that Lennox was a Bulldog-Labrador cross who had never exhibited any dangerous behavior in his life, while the BCC claimed he was "one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs" it had encountered. Last month Northern Ireland's senior appeals judges upheld two earlier rulings that the dog should be put down.
The ruling prompted a public outcry and an online "Save Lennox" campaign went viral on social media websites, gathering over 200,000 signatures for a petition against the decision. Suppporters included First Minister Peter Robinson, leader of Northern Ireland's regional government and Victoria stilwell, host of Animal Planet's "It's Me Or The Dog."
Stilwell had offered to take Lennox, all expenses paid, to a new home in the United States at a sanctuary for Pit Bulls. Her request for a meeting to discuss the proposal with the City Council went unanswered, despite the fact that Robinson had urged them to consider allowing the dog to be rehomed elsewhere.
The Council also refused to let Lennox's owners see him before he was killed. Caroline Barnes, told the Belfast Telegraph that her teenage daughter, Brooke, had been denied the chance to say a final farewell. "We had told Brooke that even if we don't win (the case), she can still see Lennox, have her last pictures with him and say goodbye. To then have to tell her that no, that is not happening, it has been extremely unfair."
"I think the council had something to prove, and they were going to do it even though it was wrong," Stilwell told msnbc.com, before explaining the fundamental problem with breed specific legislation (BSL). "We must target the deed not the breed. We must hold irresponsible pet owners accountable. Dogs of any breed can be fantastic, and dogs of any breed can be dangerous. Breed-specific law is flawed; it just doesn't work."
Unfortunately, the treatment of Lennox is not just confined to Northern Ireland. Many US states also have similarly myopic legislation governing certain breeds of dog. Euthanizing dogs based solely on what they look like is tantamount to canine genocide. RIP Lennox.