The seven-year old dog at the center of a worldwide campaign to save his life was put to death in Northern Ireland.
Despite calls from around the world to spare him, Lennox, a bulldog-Labrador mix was killed Wednesday after a prolonged legal battle. The dog was the focus of a campaign to prevent the Belfast City Council from putting him down after they decided he was a danger to the public and should be put to sleep.
Lennox’s owners argued the dog had never hurt anybody, and was being targeted because of his breed. Under Northern Ireland’s Dangerous Dogs Order, “any dog of the type known as the pit bull terrier,” is considered dangerous. Dogs that fall under the definition of dangerous according to the law can be seized and killed.
After Lennox was seized by the city council dog wardens in May 2010, his family began an online campaign to prevent his killing. An online petition to save him had more than 200,000 signatures at the time of his death. Despite the campaign, two courts over nearly two years ruled the dog should be put down, and after a legal reprieve expired at midnight Tuesday, Lennox was killed.
There are some exemptions to the law, but Lennox’s owners claim they weren’t given a chance to try to prove Lennox qualified as an exemption.
In a statement posted to their website, the council said Lennox was a danger to the community.
“The council’s expert described the dog as one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had come across,” the statement read. “The council regrets that the court action was necessary but would emphasize that the safety of the public remains its key priority.”
On the “Save Lennox” Facebook page, Lennox’s owners wrote that they weren’t allowed to say goodbye to their dog, but were told they would receive some ashes in the mail. They also thanked their followers for their support.
In the city council’s statement, they claimed the campaign to save Lennox went too far.
“Over the past two years, council officials have been subjected to a sustained campaign of abuse, including threats of violence and death threats,” the statement read. Belfast City Councilor Pat McCarthy detailed the alleged intimidation to the BBC.
“We’ve had dog wardens who had to leave their homes. We’ve had petrol poured through letter boxes, we had people named on the web,” McCarthy told the BBC. “There have been attempts to demonize our staff for doing their job. The dog was deemed a dangerous dog. There was a court order for the dog’s destruction and we had to carry it out.”
Lennox’s supporters included television dog training expert Victoria Stillwell, who offered to have Lennox put into a home in America, where he could live and not be in contact with the public.
The Dangerous Dogs Order was passed in 1991, and has come under fire for being too harsh and too breed-specific. According to the BBC, the two largest Northern Ireland veterinary associations have said they believe the legislation should change, and dogs should be assessed based on their deeds, not their breed.