Jim Crosby Weighs in on Lennox

Valuable insight into the Lennox case from Jim Crosby, retired Police Lieutenant and Canine Dog Bite Investigator:

Over the last few months I have watched the case of Lennox, a dog seized for having the “wrong” looks, as it has unfolded in Belfast, Ireland.  Lennox was seized, not for behavior, but because he has a particular physical structure.  He looks like what Ireland terms a ‘restricted breed’.  He is neutered, has obedience training, is properly vaccinated and was legally licensed-yet he was summarily seized and has been condemned to die.  As I have watched Lennox’s case, and his impending death sentence, several things have sparked my attention. Not only does the issue of destroying this animal solely based on his looks appall me, but I am particularly concerned by the "evaluations" of Lennox that the Council and Court are depending on to make a determination of his level of threat to society.

To begin, Lennox has been held for over a year in a shelter facility.  He has been deprived of his normal social contacts-his family, has had limited exercise and interaction outside his kennel, and has even been medicated with amitriptyline.

Two dog behaviorists have evaluated the dog to date.  I understand both have weighed in that Lennox is not a dangerous dog.  The videos and evaluations have shown Lennox to have substantial control of his behavior, that he is a sociable and pleasant animal despite his long isolation and confinement away from his home, and that he showed clear restraint when one evaluator pushed him into a trapped area in a threatening manner.  At that crisis point Lennox did the only thing that makes sense to a dog; he lunged, with no contact, in order to communicate clearly that he was frightened and felt threatened when he had no where else to retreat.  He did the equivalent to a human raising their voice when other means of communication fail.

This speaks volumes for this individual dog.  Despite everything that has happened to him he still shows restraint in his behavior and a desire for human social contact.  He still displays clear bite inhibition.  He still responds appropriately to social cues.  This is also despite the conduct of these evaluations in a restricted shelter environment.

The third evaluation was conducted by a police dog handler.  As a retired police Lieutenant I have known a number of canine handlers-and the trainers that prepare the dogs before police get them.  I have participated in the testing and evaluation of police dogs before their training.  And I can say this-police canine handlers and trainers are special, valued and talented persons-but they are not behaviorists.

A police dog is a special animal.  Only about ten percent of the candidates are chosen.  They need terrific drive, huge levels of trainability, and a great desire to work in tandem with a human handler.  They must be brave enough to go in where no person or animal reasonably should, yet must be able to instantly disengage when ordered to, despite inertia and provocation.  They must not be aggressive, as anger would interfere with the ability to disengage at need.  They must also be able to use nearly human levels of discrimination to understand when they must self-deploy to protect their handler, yet must recognize the difference between a violent suspect and the approach of an innocent child.  We ask so much of them-and they give it all willingly, sometimes to the death.

Police dog handlers and trainers must be highly skilled to get this level or performance.  But that skill is limited to the task at hand.  Police handlers do not address behavior problems of other animals-they are focused on the training, maintenance and development of their special charges.  These handlers conduct obedience work with their dogs as part of the control mechanism, but do not diagnose or treat problems that range from house training to nuisance barking.  They do not treat, or particularly evaluate, aggression issues.  If a dog exhibits aggression in training it is eliminated as unsuitable.  An aggressive or "mean" dog is a risk to the Department, the handler, and the public.

Even Animal Control Officers may be deficient when evaluating what is a "dangerous" dog.  They encounter animals that are often not at their best, often threatened or injured, and frankly do not get the behavioral training necessary to make the decision between treatment of repairable behavior and that which is clearly dangerous.  They can say whether a dog's behavior, in a specific incident, meets the legal definition of "dangerous" in their jurisdiction, but often fall far short of being able to diagnose whether this was truly dangerous aggression or was a storm brought about by a collection of predictable, reasonable animal behavior and human failing.  In the case of Lennox the dog warden's job was in some ways too easy; did Lennox look like one of the "usual suspects"?  He did, so the case was closed, even though Lennox never had a chance to speak.

Assessing dog aggression, and evaluating whether a dog is "dangerous", even when presented with clear criteria (which do not exist in this case) is a job best left to those familiar with more than just whether a dog is physically able to bite.  Any dog can bite-they have teeth.  A competent evaluator must understand the psychological issues behind the multiple behaviors we lump together as aggression.  Is the dog territorial?  Is the dog a resource guarder? Is the dog fearful? Can the dog adapt to novel and potentially scary situation while maintaining an acceptable level of composure? Is the dog responsive to human signals, and is the dog able to signal its own intentions clearly?  Does the dog have the inter-species social skills needed to peacefully coexist in a multi-species social environment?  Those are the questions that need to be asked before determining if a dog's behavior is "dangerous".

Having a police dog handler evaluate Lennox for his suitability as a patrol or detection dog would be appropriate; it would be having a skilled technician and trainer choosing whether Lennox would make the cut as a working dog.  We would not ask the police trainer to evaluated Fire Department equipment, even though he might like the red suspenders.  To have the police handler evaluating Lennox as a behaviorist is a disservice to the dog-and the handler.

And the worst part of this?  The case is no longer about Lennox.  It is about rules, it is about discrimination, and finally about egos.  Problem is, the bruised egos will heal-but when Lennox is dead, he is dead.

Jim Crosby      http://canineaggression.blogspot.com

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78 thoughts on “Jim Crosby Weighs in on Lennox

  1. maralyn brown

    I don't think Belfast City Council are in any way interested in what anyone thinks experienced or not...Their arrogance and inhumanity will see lennox euthanized to save their own face at being wrong in the first place. I would just like to thank everyone that has cared enough to speak out over this grosse injustice. There is still hope....and while that hope still shines we should all stand up and be counted for.... Thank you

  2. Gill Robinson

    Jim,like Victoria,has put the case over so well that this is a grave injustice. But BCC don't seem to want to know the truth. I believe nothing short of a miracle will stop Lennox from being killed tomorrow,I feel sick just thinking about it. Regardless though,people must continue the fight against BSL because Lennox is just one of many,and we need to put a wrong right.

  3. Kim Herbert

    This puts all our sentiments into words. Now we need to get it into Belfast court's brain! Well done Mr Crosby.

  4. Lynn Colley

    This should not happen because he has a muscular look about him he has done nothing wrong poor dog hope they sort this out and please let this be in the dog's favor.

  5. Monika Courtney

    The stubborn attitude of Irish officials is nothing but a sick powertrip, carrying out an egotistic crusade to brandmark an innocent victim, just because they think they can. The weight of their tactics is not practical, it is a disservice to society, a lack of responsibility with unjustified finger pointing and an absolute criminal, unethical act to condemn an ANIMAL into a political prisoner.
    The rigid mindset resembles an unwillingness to explore solutions for improvement of current judicial system which is grossly lacking modern 21st century values. Not only is his suffering and incarceration an outrage, the blatant oblivion to canines in general is beyond appalling.
    Bill Bruce of Calgary has implemented a role model in his city, as Director of Bylaw Services, and with his system he created the safest city in regards to canine rules - no fatalities to this day, but education as a base to prevent such gross injustices towards canines and their owners. It is high times that Ireland joins ship and gets out of the dark ages. Lennox is not a threat, is it those who refuse progress in the name of abusing their power. Not only is he not what they claim he is, he has not caused harm or hurt a soul. He is a victim of stupid egotistic minds who should be ashamed of themselves.

  6. Hayley

    COULDNT SOMEONE with enough power intervene and SAVE LENNOX Life by rehoming out of Ireland to another county/country or rescue with ultimately a chance to be adopted to a family if Belfast wont allow that? This do is NOT a pit bull nor has he harmed anyone. If there is a chance to save him -- why not allow a certified trainer/behaviorist or sanctuary/rescue take the dog???? Hasnt there even been one lawyer/law firm that has found a legal loophole or criteria that can save this dog or be given a legal argument to save him. While he still lives, there is still a chance. Can a GOVERNOR or Magistrate PARDON him? Has anyone like that been contacted? Even on death row, Governors pardon prisoners.. Isnt he a prisoner that deserves a second chance? I dont want this dog to be a martyr or poster dog for BSL -- I want to see him LIVE and be RELEASED out of the holding area for the last year awaiting a decision that has dragged on too long. As for the Judge -- You may think that he is "unpredictable" BUT several trainers/behaviorists have testified that he is not. Independent trainers not with the Shelter should have more take on the subject and you should reconsider their testimony/evidence in the case. The Judge would not look bad but rather showing mercy and compassion and kindness in his reversal by letting LENNOX LIVE. To the Judge and Court, I beg for Lennox LIFE and a reversal to Let him LIVE. I will pray that he will be pardoned with the compassion that an innocent animal should deserve.

  7. Andrea McAdoo

    FREE LENNOX!!!!! I am from the UNITED STATES! This aggregious incarceration of this sweet. gentle, kind and belove family member is reprehensible and uncontionable! PLEASE FREE LENNOX! 17 months is 17moths too LONG! ALLOW LENNOX TO GO HOME TO HIS DEVESTATED FAMILY!!! YOU HAVE HAD MANY DOG BEHAVIORAL EXPERTS proclaim he is NOT ANY KIND of THREAT yet you insist on making an EXAMPLE OF AN INNOCENT! This is barbarism, archaic mindsets, ignorance, bigotry and prejudice based on LOOKS AT ITS VERY WORST! PLEASE ALLOW LENNOX TO BE FREE AND GO HOME TO HIS FAMILY, OUR GLOBAL FAMILY OF LIVING BEINGS IMPLORE YOU TO FREE LENNOX IMMEDIATELY!!!

  8. Dora Poncé

    And the worst part of this? The case is no longer about Lennox. It is about rules, it is about discrimination, and finally about egos. Problem is, the bruised egos will heal-but when Lennox is dead, he is dead.

    Jim, you certainly summed it up in your last sentence.

  9. Sasha

    It's a shame that people involved treat this case as if they had a Serial Killer on their hands.Lennox acted out of instict, which does not mean vicious all the time. It's called being a Dog. Further, if you look at this case, you have to ask who is paying for all this. The judge, prosecutors, etc..easy money. For god's sake release him to his owners and let him be. The poor thing has done nothing wrong.

  10. Nicola

    If the only remaining hope is for the family to have lodged an appeal by today based on an error in the application of the law - is the fact that the Judge took the word of a police dog trainer - who as you rightly point out is not a dog behaviourist and will not have looked for the same things as the experts who did assess him (and whose reports were apparently taken out of context or ignored) - a good enough example of not applying the law correctly?

    Lennox should have been assessed in an environment in which he felt comfortable - the fact he has been traumatised by being locked up and away from those he loves for 18 months would have had a bearing on any outcome and yet despite that the experts who assessed him did say he wasn't showing the signs of being an aggressive dog - how can the Judge not have taken that into consideration?? I really hope that you, Sarah, and Victoria can bring some weight to bear on this last chance to overturn this horrendous decision. Lennox has become the unfortunate poster dog for all that is wrong with BSL and I pray it isn't too late to have the powers that be see sense.

  11. toni gibbons

    Well said! Prior to reading your article I posted basically the same thing. This is not longer about Lennox but about egos. So sad for Lennox please God shine down on him and give him his freedom to go back to his loving family.

  12. Barbara

    Ireland has had draconian laws about dogs for years. This is outrageous. Any there any animal rights
    groups in Ireland that will speak up for this miscarriage of justice? Surely, it is not up to any council to
    deal with this, but, professionals in the canine world as well as responsible veternarians.

    For a civilized society, Ireland has a lot of work to do.

  13. Lynn Fraser

    I hope I am not too late in posting this - I am in Glasgow and I haven't heard anything about Lennox - but having read the pieces above I can't believe in this day and age that the so called "Justice System" is conducting themselves this way. Like so many other areas in life we have political correctness gone mad. Surely common sense must prevail - surely????? There is a family totally devastated by what is going on - they have done everything right - training, social skills and most of all, quite clearly there is positive training method there and yet they are still being "picked on" by people who have a wee bit of power and have probably never owned or loved a dog in their life. Surely if people had experienced the wonder of that connection with man's best friend then we wouldn't even be having this discussion. There is no feeling like it - they are always pleased to see you, the tail always wags and when they put their chin on your knee there is nothing but love in their eyes. I hope common sense and someone with a bigger heart comes into this picture for Lennox and his family and fixes a situation that is quite clearly broke - so someone please fix it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Kathy

    Very well said. The police dogs handler's onlly role in this case was to identify type, and his assertion that, Lennox was dangerous should have been dismissed out of hand. i am no behaviorists and even I could seefrom the video evidence that Lennox was in no way dangerous. Despite opportunity and God Knows provocation Lennox still didnt bite anyone, as was reluctantly admitted in court by all. Are we expected to believe that after 5 years of never having even attempted to hurt anyone, Lennox turned into a killer overnight?? Shame on all involved in this travesty, poor Lennox does NOT deserve to die.

  15. Lizzy mac

    Please put aside those rediculous rules of "looking like" a certain breed BCC and let Lennox go home to his family. It has been proven time and again that he did nothing wrong. No charges were ever laid against him by a member of the public. He has been kept away from his family/pack for over a year and yet he still acts socialably with humans?? How many humans would behave with such restraint if they were treated in this way for so long?
    If Lennox is killed it will prove that human egos are deadly when it comes to the life of a family pet.

  16. Carla Stowe

    Thank you Mr. Cosby for stepping up with this valuable opinion. Lennox & his family have done nothing wrong and yet are still being punished as if they were criminals! The egos do not need to apologize for all the wrong doing just to quietly release this baby to his family and put it behind them " To err is human , to forgive canine."

  17. Vicci

    Despite the fact that Lennox has been nothing but a well behaved boy this entire time, I do not understand why the blood test proving what his breed is, is not good enough?! BSL is BS to begin with, but when you can prove your dog does not fall in this category, that should be the end of it!!

  18. Lauren

    ABSOLUTELY! It's disgusting that the Irish Govt have let this drag on for a year, It's about their egos for sure now, cunts!

  19. Pingback: Great article – Jim Crosby weighs in on Lennox | SaveTheStrays.co.uk

  20. Pingback: America’s Huffington Post Feature Lennox Article |

  21. Moyra

    This is terrible legislation and very wrong indeed, and it needs to change ! Please NOTE that this has nothing to do with IRELAND ! There is no BSL in the Rep of Ireland. Belfast is in NORTHERN IRELAND which is part of the UK, and falls under British Government. Thanks

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