The Fight For Lennox – A Year Later

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.

Lennox was confiscated by the Belfast authorities because of how he looked.

Lennox was confiscated by the Belfast authorities because of how he looked.

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.

120711-Belfast-Telegraph-LennoxWhen it became clear that Lennox wouldn’t be released to his family I provided another option and offered to personally fly him to a sanctuary in the States where he could live the rest of his life in peace.  When all hope of getting him home had gone, it was the family’s desire to see their dog happy.  Other sanctuaries in southern Ireland and the States had also offered to help and had opened their doors to him. There were many excellent and safe places where Lennox could have been taken, which would have satisfied the court’s concerns for the public’s safety, but all these offers were turned down. The council had a point to make and they weren’t going to be stopped, even when it was obvious how wrong they were.

Appeal after appeal was denied and the date set for Lennox’s death.  The case reverberated around the world and more offers of help came flooding in, some from people that just wanted part of the media spotlight and others that genuinely wanted to help.  I went to Belfast, met with the family and spent hours speaking with lawyers, trying to procure a meeting with the council.  The family’s lawyer still believed there were certain loopholes that meant Lennox could be taken out of the country, but all of these efforts were rejected.  Sarah Fisher (who continues to be a beacon of light for the Barnes family) also offered to help and has remained a champion for Lennox’s cause and the anti-BSL movement.

On July 11th 2012 Lennox was euthanized.   The courts and the council had their victory.  Lennox was dead and the Barnes family mourned their beloved dog.   They begged the courts to release Lennox’s body to them so they could give him a proper burial and say good bye. This was denied, supposedly because the council was worried about what the family might do.  Lennox’s body was clearly in a poor state as seen during Fisher’s assessment of him, and the last thing the council wanted was to have pictures of a dog they had destroyed circulated around the world. So Sarah offered to pick Lennox’s body up instead of the family, have him cremated and then returned to them. This offer was also turned down.   A while later a white plastic bag turned up on the Barnes’ doorstep, and inside was a box with some ashes and a short note stated the ashes were Lennox’s remains, but there was no way to test if they were telling the truth.  Amazingly, the unconscionable cruelty shown by the council throughout the case carried on after Lennox’s death.

VS-with-Barnes-Family

With the Barnes family in the Belfast home days before Lennox's euthanasia.

Lennox was a fearful dog but he was not a dangerous dog.  He never bit anyone before or during his incarceration, even when under extreme stress, but he was labeled a liability and killed because of irrational fear, human ignorance and incredible incompetence.

Breed Specific Legislation is a flawed concept that rips innocent family dogs from their homes while failing to address the real issue of dangerous dogs.  As a trainer and behavior expert that regularly works with all breeds of dogs including pit bulls and who also investigates bites, maulings and human fatalities from dogs, I have first-hand experience of how ineffective BSL is.  Assessing whether a dog is dangerous or poses a risk to the general public is an immensely important process, and one that shouldn’t be based on what the dog looks like or whether he fits certain measurements, but rather by examining the way he behaves in all kinds of environments and situations as well as the way his owners handle him.

The UK’s EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Activities) committee that is reviewing proposed new legislation in the UK is finally admitting that the Dangerous Dogs Act that came into effect over twenty years ago is not keeping people safe from dangerous dogs.  In a statement they “accept that the current ban on certain dog types in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 has not prevented attacks by dogs either of a banned type or those of types not banned.”  But until the laws are truly changed to target irresponsible owners and their celebration of or passivity towards aggressive responses, innocent dogs will still be taken from their homes.  People like the Barnes family will have to continue to fight to get their dogs back while reckless owners of all breeds get away with irresponsible behavior.

Lennox is the poster child against a law that is fatally flawed and needs to be changed.  His family continues to fight against BSL so that other innocent lives can be protected and so that other families don’t have to experience the pain of having a beloved dog taken away from them, deemed guilty and killed just because of the way he looks.



35 Comments

  1. Carol Pope

    July 11th, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Such a tragedy that should have never taken place...Lennox was a innocent baby judged by predjudice and ignorance!!! I named my Boston Terrier "Lennnox" in his honor so he will never be forgotten!!

  2. DeLinda

    July 11th, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Proud to say that the state I live in, Nevada, voted against BSL just this year. Now we just have to work on private property landlords, who still have breed discrimination.

    What you did for Lennox and the Barnes family was incredible Victoria, but I believe as you do, that the fight was won by the council as soon as Lennox was removed from his home. Ego and narcissism came out the winner.

    Lennox will forever be the poster dog in fighting BSL.

  3. Hayley

    July 11th, 2013 at 11:36 am

    It's just so very sad. They were clearly determined to kill him but what hurts me the most is dragging it out over 2 years. I wish they would have allowed Victoria to take him. He would be enjoying the rest of his life.

    I shall never ever forget about him. loads of people fight every day to end BSL

    There is a petition called "lennox law" that people from all over the world can sign http://www.change.org/petitions/lennox-law

  4. Karen Lees

    July 11th, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Absolutely disgraceful treatment of a dog and his family. Appalling. I am fighting back tears but want to thank each and every person who tried to help Lennox and his loved ones. Your work was not in vain as hopefully it will save future dogs and families from suffering.

    The spirit of Lennox lives on in all of you.

    Kind regards
    Karen Lees

  5. Amanda

    July 11th, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    This is so beautifully written, Victoria. Brings me back to the multiple letters we all wrote last year, apparently in vain. So glad you are still speaking out for this sweet little pu, his family, and all others who are currently fighting. RIP little man, we wil never forget you.

  6. Patrice Brandt

    July 11th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    It wouldn't of mattered what kind of dog Lennox was they were going to show you that they were in control and he was going to be killed!! I still pray that they have a rotten life till their end is near and pay for what they did on judgement day!!!! ROT IN HELL YOU MORONS!!!!

  7. Peter Haas

    July 11th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you for keeping this message alive.

  8. Kirsten

    July 11th, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    thank you for not forgetting...

  9. Sharon

    July 11th, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Dear Barns family...a year has past & I know your hearts still miss & ache for your boy. I want you all to know that Lennox will ALWAYS be remembered through out the world!! One day your plight will be answered with the decission to do away with BSL & all the world will cheer loudly. Lennox is waiting over the Rainbow Bridge for his family to join him & you all will be happy once more. As for now...he is your guardian angel watching over you all. Every time he comes to my mind I remember all of the pictures young & old of him..& I cry with you. (((Hugs))) Sharon

  10. Viv

    July 11th, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Followed Lennox story from the beginning, So sad the poor dog was innocent.His family and thousands of supporters fought so hard to save him.BCC and their cronies wanted him dead. Lennox you will never be forgotton.You have made thousands around the world aware of BSL and we fight on in your name.r.i.p. sweetheart <3 <3

  11. Rebecca Ashworth

    July 12th, 2013 at 5:27 am

    The defiance of BCC in still refusing to give any answers, and the fact that Alexandra Lightfoot has yet to be held accountable for the perjury that led the judge to condemn Lennox, disgusts me. The entire travesty has awakened a passion to see BSL end everywhere, and we won't forget him, or the Barnes family who paid such a high price.

  12. Linda Raymond

    July 12th, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Lennox opened alot of people's eyes to the horror of BSL. My heart goes out to all the families of seized dogs and for all the innocent dogs destroyed. The world is united in the fight against BSL and hopefully one day this horrendous law will no longer exist and we will no longer live in fear for our pets

  13. Laura

    July 12th, 2013 at 6:39 am

    I really don't understand why they wanted this poor baby dead so badly? Why not let him go where his breed is legal? BSL is Bullshit! I so agree this family and dog, never stood a chance! He was doomed the day he was taken out of his home. So so sad! Ireland will never make it on my bucket list

  14. Michael Haslam

    July 12th, 2013 at 7:15 am

    He will never be forgotten, I did not know about the evil of BSL until I heard about Lennox, I'm sure that goes for many people around the world. Why does law and Justice go out of the window where dogs are concerned?

  15. Kathy

    July 12th, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    As you say BCC's 'expert' clearly had no understanding of how a scared dog, any scared dog, would react in that situation, especially as he had just dragged him around on a catch pole. That man should under no circumstances be accepted as any kind of expert. Its obvious his own personal bias comes into play and if he continues in his current role many more innocent family pets will die based on his uneducated assumptions.

  16. Carla

    July 12th, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you again for writing the truth about what happened, and for speaking out against the stupid BSL.

  17. Joan K.

    July 12th, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Victoria is a true hero for all her efforts to save Lennox and to keep the issue of breed specific legislation in the public eye. Hopefully Lennox's legacy will be an end to the ignorance of BSL everywhere. And lest Belfast city government think anyone has forgotten their corruption, not to mention cruelty toward the Barnes family in this case, they should be aware that the world is still watching closely and praying for justice, or at least the truth.

  18. Adrian Carrera

    July 14th, 2013 at 5:53 am

    I followed this case and for me was really sad when I found out that Lennox was killed, I have 4 dogs from different breeds, and I can say that the breed doesn't matter to determinate if the dog is aggressive or not, is the way we raise and educate them, if they do socialize and give them our space and time in our lives to share with them, is the same as with humans, we are the example to follow for them......That said, the descendants of the members of BCC for probably are narrow minded as them.

  19. saman asif

    July 15th, 2013 at 3:05 am

    the sheer vindictiveness of the council beggars belief. the only explanation would be,as so many have suggested, that lennox was already dead. but then why drag it out for so long?

    thank you victoria and all the others who tried to save the poor darling and who are still trying. can some legal action be taken to finally get this mess exposed and shut it down?
    the ignorance and stupidity surrounding "dangerous dogs" needs to be removed so that this will stop happening.

  20. Anne Warren

    July 15th, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Thank you for caring and trying to save Lennox and other dogs being discriminated against because of their breed or how they look. This article is excellent and does Lennox and his family proud. I hope the Barnes family are finding some comfort in the tributes and love shown to Lennox and to them on the first anniversary of this beautiufl and beloved dog's senseless passing.

  21. pipi mansfield

    July 18th, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Just hearing Lennox's name reduces me to tears ! The human race has alot to answer for ! RIP sweet boy

  22. Sandy Strychor

    July 18th, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Lennox's story is so tragic . Unfortunately it is people who can be ugly and mean. Not only did they take his life..but they were needlessly cruel in the interum, He and his family, as well as all dogs that have not hurt anyone, deserve better.

  23. Heidi

    July 18th, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I can't imagine going through something like this. I can't even bear to leave my dog at a kennel if we have to go away (and I haven't had to!) but to think how Lennox must have felt - every day - every hour - everytime someone came in - he was looking for his owners. And the Barnes family's feelings of guilt and helplessness. Just because of the BCC's ridiculously inflated EGO. SHAME!

  24. MaryAlice Pollard (@CornwallsVoice)

    August 7th, 2013 at 3:59 am

    They were months that will never be forgotten for all of us around the world. Lennox remains in the heart of all who fought to save his life - we are all Lennox and he represents every dog who has been unjustly taken and murdered under the BSL law. The Lennox's are not criminals, they have broken no laws. The crime is BSL and the criminals are all those who support and implement it. It is a horrid, cruel and barbaric law that kills the innocent and rips the heart out families - in this day and age to be so legally judgmental against a LOOK - we, the public allow this to continue ?! What is wrong with us ?! We fight for the rights of all cultures not to be judged by the clothing they wear, the colour of their skin, their religion or where they come from yet we allow the seizing and killing of dogs JUST BECAUSE OF THE WAY THEY LOOK ?

    It is disgusting and we should all be so very ashamed !

  25. Adriana

    August 7th, 2013 at 4:57 am

    I cried a lot for Lennox . Signed everything I could , prayed a lot .I can´t imagine going through it either . Poor little creature , poor the ones who loved them, shame on human race that can act in such a cruel way.!

    Fortunately we don´t have such a law in my country , but I got such paranoid after Lennox case ,that I hardly take my dogs to public places now ... the nightmare of someone taken them away from me is there.

  26. Elizabeth

    August 7th, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Lennox will never be forgotten by dog lovers all over the world. The fight to have BSL consigned to the history books will continue in his name. Thanks to all those who are keeping his name alive, little did BCC realise that they would be reviled for this terrible act of cruelty against a poor innocent dog and his family. Lennox RIP. Shame on BCC

  27. Rhonda Lanier

    August 7th, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Thank you Victoria for all that you tried to do for this innocent dog. The fact the Belfast Council refused this innocent dog and his family any shred of compassion is something they should have paid for by losing their positions on the council as they are clearly not capable of making intelligent, rational decisions. This was clearly shown by their refusal to even return his collar to the family. Their final act of malicious spite towards the Barnes. Unfortunately we must leave retribution to Karma.

  28. Mary

    August 7th, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Thank you for this review Victoria. It is so sad that there are still many other dogs around the world in almost the same straights as Lennox. For example, there is Kerser in Australia and in Salem, Missouri, there is Phineas who was accused of biting even though expert witnesses and evaluations (like those of Lennox) prove he did no such thing. How can we get people to listen to these kangaroo courts and put [ressure on local governments to change their bigoted ways?

  29. Tess

    October 16th, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I had heard about the Lennox Barnes case early in 2012. I had contacted ( or attempted to contact, they weren't answering their e-mails after a while) the Belfast City Council and others involved in the legal kidnap and murder of Lennox, numerous times, and participated in a demonstration in the US. I even tried to call the BCC the night before. I remember how desperately so many people tried to help only to be ignored by the pompous arrogant fools who called themselves the Belfast City Council. They had even ignored a last minute request by the Court to re-access the question of letting Lennox be sent to a sanctuary out of the country. They lied and said that their hands were tied.

    The woman dog warden who was the person most responsible for having Lennox murdered because of her lies in court about Lennox's behavior, subsequently got a promotion and was sent to work in another town.

    There was no justice in this case.

    RIP Lennox. You were a good boy, and everyone knew it.

  30. Lin

    January 5th, 2014 at 11:21 am

    That so-called idiot "expert" is a known pittie hater who believes in kicking dogs. He is or was nothing but a police dog trainer with no training in the behavior of dogs at all. I hope the citizens of Belfast have voted that entire disgusting council out of office. People that cruel, stubborn, and who refuse to ever admit they are wrong should never be in any positions of power. They murdered Lennox because they could. They murdered Lennox because they refused to admit to their horrendous mistake. If I lived in Belfast I would spit on every one of them every time I saw them. They should be ostracized, as should the judge for listening to a sham expert and a lying dog warden. Belfast forever has a black mark over its name.



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