Official Statement From Lennox’s Family

We apologise for the silence as we know our many friends and supporters around the world have been desperate for news but until we had further talks with our legal team we had nothing new to share. We needed to explore all possible options before we issued another statement as we did not wish to give those that have campaigned so tirelessly any false hope or for anything to be taken out of context as has happened in the past.

Whilst there may well be errors in the Judge’s ruling from a point of law this has little bearing on whether we can or should progress by taking the case to a higher court. The ruling is based on the Judge’s decision that he deems Lennox to be unsafe despite evidence given by those qualified to assess and understand dog behaviour that contradicts the testimony of the Prosecution that was presented in court. This has given us little room for manoeuvre.

Our concern and priority has always been the welfare of our beloved boy. We have fought to have Len returned to our family from the moment he was seized but we have been advised that the legal fight is at an end. We are obviously distraught but have to consider the impact that any future lengthy legal battle would have on Len if we chose to go against the advice that we have been given. We cannot subject him to any more as there are no grounds for a further appeal and we do not wish to prolong his suffering any longer by engaging in a battle that we simply cannot win.

We have attempted to write this statement many, many times but have struggled to put in writing that the fight to spare Lennox’s life may well be over. It has been almost impossible for us to accept that we have to admit defeat. We always believed that there was some hope and that justice would prevail. We were wrong. There have been many dark days for us since Len was taken and we want you all to know that it is your support and kindness that kept us going through the blackest times.

This is all we can share with you at the moment and we are finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that there is nothing more that we can do from a legal point of view and that Lennox may well be killed. We have one last hope that Belfast City Council will allow Lennox to be rehomed in the USA. The offer is there but we have no say in whether this offer will be accepted. We have never refused to rehome Lennox. That decision was taken out of our hands from the moment Len took his final walk with us from our house to the Dog Wardens van.
If the offer is turned down we will fight for our right to say goodbye. We cannot bear the thought that Lennox will die without being reminded of the hearts and hands that love him.

Thank you.

Wednesday 13th June 2012 – Official Press Statement From Lennox’s Family

We would like to thank everyone for the countless messages that we have received in the last 24 hours during what is a very difficult time for our family and for the support we have had from so many since Lennox was seized in 2010. The past two years have been extremely distressing for many reasons and we appreciate that this has been a very emotive case for dog lovers worldwide who have spoken out against the failings of Breed Specific Legislation. We take some comfort in the knowledge that we are not the only ones to be devastated by the recent ruling. We are in talks with our legal team and will make another statement in due course.

Thank you

America’s Huffington Post Feature Lennox Article

America’s largest news website the Huffington Post today published Lennox’s story. The article by columnist Joan Smith reads as follows:

An Outrage In Belfast:
The Sad Case Of Lennox, The Dog.


The Huffington Post LogoThose of us living in what we consider free societies often feel secure that if we comply by laws, pay our taxes, and maintain other civic duties we should not live in fear of government officials entering our homes and disrupting our families.

Not so in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where a tragic situation that is nothing short of Orwellian has played out for over two years. Lennox, a Labrador/American Bulldog mix, was seized from the Barnes family under the U.K.’s “Dangerous Dogs Act” (DDA) and sentenced to death due simply to his physical measurements. Under the DDA, if a dog’s measurements are in line with their standard for “pit bull types”, the dog can be seized without warrant and sentenced to death (a recent amendment stipulates the that the dog must also be proven dangerous). The DDA assumption that physical traits dictate a dog’s behavioral tendencies is contradicted by well known dog experts and virtually every major veterinary, animal control, and emergency medical associations worldwide – all of whom have spoken out against these laws .

It’s hard to image a more unlikely target for the law than the Barnes family. Lennox is an American Bulldog/Labrador mix who had never been reported for any act of aggression, and in fact had never exhibited a single sign of misbehavior. He is not only a family pet, but has served as a therapy dog and soulmate for a disabled girl, Brook Barnes, who is now 13. Lennox’s family had provided a stable, loving home environment. He had been microchipped, neutered, DNA registered, insured, and even had a valid city-issued dog license. By all accounts, Caroline Barnes, a former veterinary nurse, is a model pet owner.

Yet on May 19, 2010, the City of Belfast saw fit to turn their world upside down, in the most baffling way imaginable: Two dog wardens (who operate under the auspices of Belfast City Council) came knocking at the Barnes door bearing a warrant with an entirely different address; it’s still unclear whether the visit was a simple mistake or prompted by Ms. Barnes’ recently renewing the city dog license. The Barnes related that after smoking cigarettes and pleasantly chatting over tea, they produced a tape with which they measured Lennox; they then announced they were seizing him because, by their assessment of his measurements, he was “of type.*

That was nearly two years ago. Since then, in spite of massive worldwide outcry, including pleas from noted dog behavioral experts and celebrities, a petition that now bears over 127,000 signatures, and a growing “Boycott Belfast” movement, Lennox has been held in a secret location while the family pitches a desperate legal battle for his life.

It’s no exaggeration to say that prosecution case against Lennox has been rife with inconsistencies, errors, and even accusations of perjury. The absurd twists and cast of characters could make this case darkly comic — Samuel Butler or Dickens would have had a romp with it — if it didn’t ultimately hinge on one innocent life, and the suffering of a heartbroken girl.

One would think the case would have been put to bed in September 2011, after two expert animal behaviorists, Sarah Fisher and David Ryan, presented the results of their separate, extensive evaluations of Lennox. Both came to the conclusion that Lennox is friendly and of no danger, and presented these reports to the court.

Inexplicably, the judge dismissed those evaluations, and instead relied on the opinion of one Peter Tallack, a police dog handler and noted supporter of the DDA, whose official role in the case was simply “breed identifier.” In a quirky bit of testimony, a flustered Tallack offered the opinion that Lennox was “waiting to go off,”

Apparently using this as the basis, Judge Rodgers called Lennox “a disaster waiting to happen” in a ruling that upheld Lennox’s death sentence not on the basis of any past or current behavior, but on a projection that he might be aggressive at some point in the future. (Imagine if a human defendant were convicted on these grounds!)

When the defense appealed again in late January of this year, the case was reviewed by the very same Judge Rodgers, who – surprise – chose not to overturn his own ruling.

Outrage sums up the reaction of Victoria Stilwell, celebrity dog trainer and host of the program “It’s Me or the Dog,” with whom I spoke earlier this year. Stilwell has been outspoken in her support for Lennox, devoting a number of articles and a podcast to it, and against breed specific legislation in general (which she sums up as “addressing the wrong end of the leash”). Stilwell has studied the video assessments of Lennox and reviewed Sarah Fisher’s report, and simply can’t believe the judge would have taken the word of Tallack – who is, by his own admission, not a behaviorist – over the the opinions of two highly regarded professionals.

Concurring with Stilwell is Jim Crosby, a dog trainer and expert in canine aggression. By his account, he has personally assessed more dogs involved in fatal attacks than anyone else on the planet. He stresses that breed is most certainly not a factor in determining whether a dog is dangerous or not; it is the individual characteristics of a dog. This is a man who knows aggressive animals, and he cries foul in the Lennox case. “This poor dog didn’t do anything, he was minding his own business, happily at home,” he said in a January conversation. “That’s the baffling thing.”

Also like Stilwell, Crosby questions why the testimony of Tallack, a police dog handler, was given credence by the judge. He says to have someone with Tallack’s highly focused skill set evaluate a family dog like Lennox for aggressive tendencies is “like asking a guy who works on Piper plane to repair the space shuttle.” It’s a very different type of dog in a completely different situation.

Both Stilwell and Crosby continue to speak out passionately about the Lennox case, and Stilwell has especially expressed alarm over evidence that Lennox’s health is deteriorating further, based on photo evidence showing massive hair loss and sores.

A final appeal to high court is set for May 24. If it is ruled that Lennox cannot be returned to his family, the defense is asking at least to allow a friendly party in the Republic of Ireland (where there is no breed specific legislation) to adopt him.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Belfast, a family’s beloved pet – a dog who has never spent so much as a day in a boarding kennel — remains locked in a small dank cell surrounded by sawdust and feces, a victim of misused policy and a few humans who would rather see him put to death than admit a mistake. Now, that’s a crime.

Article Source & Courtesy Joan K. Smith, Huffington Post

Lennox In The So Called Care Of Belfast City Council

Victoria Stilwell “Shocked” At Lennox Health Condition

Victoria Stilwell, celebrity dog trainer and presenter of hit TV show “It’s Me Or The Dog” has openly spoken out in support of Lennox since hearing of his plight in 2010. After extensively studying all Lennox assessment videos Victoria also submitted her own report as an expert dog behaviourist to the Northern Ireland courts stating that Lennox poses no danger to public and that he clearly demonstrates amazing self control even while put under stressful circumstances, however as we now know Judge Rodgers in the September 2011 appeal hearing decided to ignore all expert evidence presented to him from such experts as Sarah Fisher, Victoria Stilwell and past evidence held on record by David Ryan, instead Judge Rodgers accepted the non expert evidence from Peter Tallack a retired police dog handler who admits not having any behavioural expertise.

Victoria Stilwell Positively Podcast On Lennox – Full Version

In the October 2011 edition of Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Podcast the main topic was Lennox. In this edition Victoria spoke about many things regarding the Lennox case and she also expressed concern regarding Lennox’s current skin condition after she had witnessed his poor fur condition and awful sores visible on his skin whilst she had been compiling her report from various assessment videos. Lennox always had a slight skin condition and such was well controlled and treated by his family while at home and many people who know Lennox and had seen Lennox prior to his seizure by the Belfast City Council dog warden would not have been at all aware that he had a skin aliment due to the ongoing treatment and quality of care his family had been giving Lennox. Speaking to her co-host about Lennox’s skin condition whilst in the so called care of Belfast City Council, Victoria stated that she was “shocked” after studying the assessment video by expert behaviourist Sarah Fisher. Victoria also explained how Lennox has a neck injury which Sarah Fisher also picked up on during her assessment of Lennox and along with bleeding from around the nail bed on one of his paws which David Ryan had also noted remains untreated by Belfast City Council to this day. Its now at this point people reading should note that Lennox had no injuries anywhere on his body before his seizure except a small scar from his neutering operation many years previous. Lennox’s condition shortly after seizure by Belfast City Council was also noted and mentioned by council dog wardens in their statements from which he was described as a dog in good health, after an apparent check over by a council contracted vet. Its unknown how Lennox’s neck and foot injury were obtained but one thing that is certain is that Lennox had none of these injuries prior to his seizure nor was he covered in massive bald patches or open sores. Many respectable veterinarians or those who are very knowledgeable of animal anatomy can explain that such a neck injury in a dog can come about by means of being pulled or yanked at force whilst having a chain type collar, heavy rope or even a catch pole placed around their necks and of course such injuries may come about due to simple rough play but many people already know and realise that given Lennox’s condition already most are sure Lennox hasn’t seen any form of play since his happy days at home with his family, furthermore given the powers that the USPCA have why have they not stepped in as this is clearly a case of cruelty, Lennox is being allowed to go without any proper medical attention, there’s simply no words or excuse for allowing this to happen and Belfast City Council can put whatever twist they want on this, it’s down right abusive and its cruel! Lennox is in the care of Belfast City Council and their contracted kennel so why isn’t he receiving adequate care?

In shock and concern Victoria further described to her positively podcast co-host and her listeners from around the globe what she had witnessed on the assessment videos taken while in the ‘care’ of Belfast City Council. Referring to Lennox’s poor skin and fur condition Victoria, with an air of sickening disbelief in her voice said “that condition is not being treated properly, that dog’s fur does not need to be like that” co-host Holly, replied “it’s abusive.”

Belfast City Council’s expert Peter Tallack is also discussed in Victoria’s podcast about Lennox. Victoria explains to her listeners that Peter Tallack who has no skills in dog behaviour, who is not a behaviourist and who does not understand dog behaviour but is paid by Belfast City Council to act as their expert was allowed by Judge Rodgers to give evidence as such. Victoria, in reference to Judge Rodgers acceptance of non expert evidence from Peter Tallack said ” the courts would rather go with untrained, unqualified evidence rather than evidence from two trained, two qualified behavioural experts who both assessed Lennox and said he was not a danger” Lennox supporters around the world now know that Peter Tallack admits himself he is no behaviourist so why was it then that he based any of his assessment report on such? Why was it that Judge Rodgers allowed such a bad stage act to progress? Why was it that Judge Rodgers ignored the evidence of two highly skilled behavioural experts being David Ryan and Sarah Fisher who both agree Lennox is not a danger? and why did Judge Rodgers ignore all the other expert evidence given in Lennox’s defence and instead opt to accept the non expert opinion of Peter Tallack? To set the scene and give some history on Peter Tallack, he is on record as saying that an effective means to controlling a non cooperative dog is to be able to kick, punch or even step on a dog, although strange and quite disturbingly he did once serve time as a dog handler within the Metropolitan Police where he finally retired a Police Constable after holding the position for twenty five years, furthermore any Google or other search online will list the Met Police dog bite statistics which makes for very alarming reading considering that many of the bites recorded were caused by Police dogs to their own Police dog handlers.

Victoria, on closing of her October 2011 Positively podcast stated that from what she has witnessed of all assessment videos taken of Lennox while in Belfast City Council captivity that she saw a dog who surrounded by strangers demonstrated “incredible impulse control and an intent not to harm, I don’t think Lennox is a dangerous dog, I think he needs to go back to his family.”

You can listen to the Victoria Stilwell Positively podcast about Lennox by clicking on the ‘Click To Play’ link toward the top of this article. The pictures contained within this article are some of those taken from one of Lennox’s assessment videos and show the skin and fur condition that Victoria Stilwell is referring to in her podcast.

A small group of people, who they themselves, claim to be supporters, friends and even show listed as Facebook friends of a certain Belfast City Council dog warden released small, carefully planned snippets of Lennox’s assessment videos and documents last year online before the video’s had been shown in court, videos that they shouldn’t have had in their possession but if one of their posts from Facebook (see below image) is to be believed and true then one of them called Ann did admit online that she was contacted by someone within the council, offered and sent copies of Lennox’s assessment videos and documents.

Ann (Warden Friend) admits Being Contacted By Belfast City Council & Offered Then Sent Evidence DVD's & Documents Not Yet Seen By Court

These same people posted small edited pieces of video online in an attempt to portray Lennox in a bad light and to hopefully discredit the real experts acting for Lennox but unknowingly to them they actually helped show the world just how well of a self controlled, well behaved and beautiful dog Lennox actually is even after being looked up by strangers and neglected for two years. The obvious question is however, why didn’t these hateful people post the full video instead of edited snippets? Maybe its because it would have shown the world the truth, how Lennox isn’t a danger as his family and three real experts have stated all along, maybe it was because had they released the full video which they have then the world would have seen the horrendous skin condition that Lennox is being made to suffer whilst in the ‘care’ of Belfast City Council. The same small group of people in an attempt to disrupt Lennox’s case also setup fake duplicate Facebook profiles of certain Save Lennox campaigners and proceeded to post each other threatening and abusive messages online, screen capturing the messages and again distributing the screen captures online in aid to claim they had been sent from genuine Save Lennox supporters and campaigners, not satisfied there, the same people then recently setup a fake forum on which they posted fake messages and comments pretending to be from Save Lennox campaigners in an attempt to raise and secure funds, this group then screen captured the fake messages and sent them to Belfast City Council’s legal department who also attempted to act upon false information sent to them again in an attempt to disrupt and even bring a halt to innocent Lennox’s fight for life, however in their rush to help supply fake screen captures to Belfast City Council’s legal department the person who setup the fake forum and those who posted fake comments on the same forum did not realise that their IP addresses had been captured revealing their real identity. Thankfully this small group of twisted individuals failed in their attempts and Lennox’s legal hearing case goes ahead. More on this will be published in the coming weeks. Read Sarah Fisher’s statement on the leaked video edits here.

Courtesy of savelennox.co.uk

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Statement On Lennox By Sarah Fisher

Statement On Lennox By Sarah Fisher

It has been brought to my attention that a small clip of my assessment of Lennox has been put on the internet.  This clip has been taken completely out of context and whilst I have remained relatively quiet on this case since I spoke in court, I feel that I am now forced to make a statement to clarify what actually happened during the time I was with Lennox.

Wrongly or rightly many documents and details about this case have been passed onto different parties. I do not feel it is appropriate for me at this moment to discuss in detail everything that has been said to me, nor to put forward my own ideas regarding all the statements made, as everyone is entitled to their own opinion and beliefs.  What I am qualified to do however is to discuss behaviour. My assessments, statements and videos of those assessments have been accepted in other court cases at Magistrates, County and Crown Courts here in the UK so the field of assessment in cases such as this is not unknown to me.

I do not care if I am to be criticized by members of the public or even other professional bodies as I have a wealth of experience handling and working with many breeds of dogs, large and small and I also work with horses with behavioural issues so do not need to defend the claims that I have little or no experience of working with powerful animals such as Pit Bull Types. I would however like to clarify that a Pit Bull Type is often a mix of dogs.  Nothing extraordinary happens to the psyche of a dog when it conforms to certain measurements.

I do care however that Lennox is being portrayed in a poor light through this video clip as my experience of handling Lennox was thoroughly enjoyable and I now feel the need to explain in greater detail the truth, as I see it, about my assessment.  I know that Victoria Stilwell has been what I would consider to be a sane voice amidst the madness that surrounds this case and she has seen full video footage of the assessments carried out by myself and David Ryan plus other documentation.

When the door to the van was first opened Lennox barked.  He barked at me three times when I approached.  As I said in my report this is not uncommon behaviour in any dog that is in a confined situation in a crate, kennel or in a car.  He was also shaking like a leaf but this does not come over in the video that my assistant took of this assessment.  He was clearly frightened as he could not have known what was going to happen to him and again this is not an uncommon behaviour in the dogs that come to me for help. No one has ever disputed that Lennox can be anxious around some strangers but I believe the key word some has sadly been overlooked.

I asked for someone that Lennox knew to take him out of the crate to keep his stress levels low. Entry and exit points can be a source of conflict for any dog. I was told I had to handle Lennox on my own for the entire assessment and that he had bitten the last person that came to see him.  This is the clip that has been released.  Had I had any concerns for my safety or those around me given that I was to be fully and wholly responsible for a dog that I do not know and that I had been told has bitten, I would not have continued with the assessment if I believed that dog to be a danger either to myself or those who were standing in the car park. Lennox gave me a lot of information about his temperament whilst in the crate.  In court however, and therefore under oath, Ms Lightfoot the Dog Warden stated that in fact Lennox had not bitten anyone so I have to assume on the evidence placed before the court that the statement made to me at the start of my assessment was untrue.  Given the publicity surrounding this case I am also confident that had Lennox actually bitten anyone whilst in the care of his family as has been suggested someone would have come forward by now.

I spent approx 15 minutes with Lennox prior to being taken from the crate, working with a clicker and some treats to see if, even in the environment that was causing him some anxiety, he could still learn and take direction from a stranger. He could. His eyes were soft and he was friendly. At this point I would also like to clarify the meaning of the word friendly.  It does not mean confident.  Was Lennox anxious? Yes.  Hostile?  No.

I believe that Lennox would have been totally at ease had I indeed taken him out myself but I also believe I have a duty of care to reduce stress where possible when handling any animal in a situation that is causing them distress.  No doubt this statement will also be taken out of context by those who wish to discredit me and to discredit my belief that Lennox is not a danger to the public based on my experience with him and also based on the video assessment carried out by David Ryan which I have also seen.

I use food in an assessment to monitor the dogs stress levels and emotions at all times. It is not a bribe. A habitually aggressive dog will generally seek out conflict in my experience but even these dogs can often be rehabilitated. No amount of food can disguise this behaviour and giving food to a dog with aggression issues can be extremely dangerous. The dog may be lured to a person by the promise of food but once it has taken the food it may panic as the offering of the food has now brought that dog into close proximity with the threat i.e. a stranger. I have worked with dogs with aggression issues and whilst some may well take the food, the person delivering the food may not be able to move once the food has gone as the movement of the person, even the smallest movement of their arm, may trigger the dog to lunge and bite. I would not hand feed a dog that I deem to be aggressive. The delivery of the treat must come from the person that the dog knows and trusts – not the stranger. The dog can learn to approach a threat and then turn back to the person that the dog trusts for the reward if the approach to the person is appropriate.  I use food throughout an assessment to monitor what is happening with the dog on an emotional and physical level not to make him my best friend.

Lennox was so gentle with the taking of the food both in the crate and also later in the car park.  He was also appropriate in his behaviour with the games we played. He was also gentle when he jumped up at me to see if he was allowed the food that I was withholding in my hand. When he realised it wasn’t forthcoming he politely backed off. This would suggest to me that he has been around a family. Not chained up in a yard as has also been claimed by people who do not know the family or the dog.

Lennox showed excellent impulse control at all times and at no point did he grab me or my own clothing which many dogs do when getting excited by a game.  I have worked with some truly challenging dogs and some will become increasingly aroused by lead ragging or games with toys and start seriously mouthing or biting the handlers arms or clothing. This can quickly flip over to more overt aggression and these dogs can be dangerous particularly if they are being handled by just one person.  It is imperative that dogs with this behaviour are taught a more appropriate way of interacting with people and responding to the leash and also greater self control. There are many ways to help dogs that have been encouraged, through mishandling and misunderstanding, to behave in such a manner.  Kicking and beating them is certainly not the answer.

Lennox does rag on the lead but it is very self controlled. He did not exhibit any of the behaviours that I have mentioned above. Regardless of what some uneducated people may wish to think, it is possible to glean a lot of information about a dog through games and food as many behaviour counsellors and trainers will confirm.

I wrote a fifteen page report on my experience with Lennox and my thoughts about the David Ryan assessment. In this report I state that I have concerns about the appearance of Lennox’s neck. In the video I explain this too.  His ears are unlevel and there was a change in the lay of his coat over the Atlas in line with the nuchal ligament that is present between T1 and C2 vertebrae.  Coat changes often occur in dogs, cats and horses that have suffered injury or those that are unwell. I have studied this over seventeen years of handling many animals. In all cases where I referred an animal back to a vet, whether it was in the care of a shelter, owned by my private clients or students that I teach changes to the soft tissue or skeleton were noted on further detailed investigation.  When I see this around the neck in a dog I know that it is likely to give the dog cause for concern when someone unknown to that dog attempts to handle the collar or put on or take off a lead.  Coat changes may well be present where deep bruising has also occurred. Pain and pain memory is a key factor in many behavioural problems.

Lennox was quite rightly put on Amitriptyline. I do not believe that the Council have failed in their duty to care for Lennox when it comes to the stress that he has been under and I understand that this drug is used to treat anxiety and depression.  It was with interest, though, that I discovered that this drug is also used to treat chronic pain in dogs. Again this was mentioned in my written report.  This may explain in part why my experience with Lennox seems to fly in the face of other evidence presented before the courts. He was not on Amitriptyline when he was assessed by David Ryan.

I would absolutely move on to touch an animal all over its body in any assessment that I do.  I may or may not choose to muzzle a dog that is unknown to me to do this if I have concerns about the body language that I have seen prior to this part of my assessment.  I elected not to stroke Lennox all over because of my concerns about his neck, the newly forming scabs that were present on his flanks and the blood that was present around the nail beds around his right hind foot. This decision was made based on the physical evidence before me not because I felt I would be in danger.  I talked about this in court which was open to the public and at the end of my assessment which is also on film I explained this to a representative from the BCC Dog Warden team and asked if there was anything else that she would like me to do with Lennox.  She said no.

I cannot comment on what happened when Lennox was seized or measured by Peter Tallack because I wasn’t there. I can explain behaviour though and any frightened animal can be intimidating. I have recently been in Romania working with traumatised horses and two stallions had not been mucked out for months as the staff (men) were too scared to go in with them. They called them ‘pitbulls’ such is the misguided impression of this type of dog.  Hay had been simply thrown over the stable doors and their water buckets were hanging crushed against the stable wall.  I went in with them, not because I have any desire to be a hero, but because I can read an animal well and within minutes they were quiet, standing at the end of their stables albeit it pressed up against the walls. I was calm with them and we took out all the filthy bedding and fetched new water buckets for them too. They didn’t attack anyone. They were simply terrified and they were not provoked. I spent time with one of them on my own, hand feeding him and was finally able to touch his face. This process probably took less than half an hour. I was totally absorbed in what I was doing and when I turned to walk out I realised that one of the Romanian men had been watching me. He raised his eyebrows, gave me the thumbs up and walked away. Other people could then go in with this magnificent horse too and hand feed him the fresh sweet grass that we had picked from the surrounding fields so it isn’t simply that I am quiet in my handling of animals nor possess some extraordinary skill that can make even the most savage lion behave like a lamb when in my company.

I can perhaps, help an animal that is struggling, gain trust in human beings as many people can.  I can perhaps work with a difficult animal and make it look as though that animal is calm but all the time I am reading that animal. Every second of the way. I am looking at the eyes if it is safe to do so, I am watching the respiration, I am studying the movement, the set of the ears and the tail and so on and my opinions about an animal are based on many years of working in this way.  One case that will always stand out in my mind was a large member of the Bull Breed family.  I believe she was two years old.  I won’t go into the details here but I will say that when I worked with her she appeared to be very good to the member of kennel staff that was watching.  At the end of my assessment the member of staff asked me what I thought.  I sadly had to say that I thought the dog should be put to sleep. The member of staff was horrified and I remember her saying ‘but she’s been so good with you’.  But I had noticed some worrying signs.  The shelter ignored my advice and rehomed the dog who savaged the new owner so badly the owner ended up in the ICU. Of course the dog was immediately destroyed.

I knew what I was walking into when I agreed to go and assess Lennox for the family.  To have to defend Lennox outside of the court has, however, come as a surprise.  I have made this statement to shed a little more light on what is a distressing case for all those involved,  knowing full well that I will no doubt be subject to further scrutiny and criticism. So be it. I am not afraid. If nothing else this case has highlighted some important issues about the fears and prejudice concerning dogs, their breed types and their behaviour. Certainly it highlights the sad truth as Xenephon said so wisely in 400 BC. Where knowledge ends, violence begins.

The Save Lennox Campaign © 2011 Sarah Fisher

In Court – A Brief Review Of The Lennox Appeal Hearing

Day One Of Lennox Appeal Hearing – 16th September 2011

Laganside Courts - Belfast, Northern Ireland

Laganside Courts - Belfast, Northern Ireland

On the first day of the appeal hearing the court heard from three Belfast City Council dog wardens who were all involved in Lennox’s seizure. As the day progressed those within the court room listened and heard three different versions of events, three varying statements were given by the three wardens on the stand who all took an oath before giving their evidence.

The main focus of the day’s hearing was fixed on one particular dog warden who led the seizure of Lennox from his home in May 2010. On one occasion this warden was being pressed for an answer regarding an earlier video that the court had watched in which another member of Belfast City Council had quite clearly stated on the video that Lennox had “bitten someone who was here before” again pressed for an answer this warden was asked if Lennox had ever bitten anyone whilst in the care of Belfast City Council, the warden turned to the Barrister and finally answered “No.”

The Belfast City Council dog warden continued to be cross examined for a while but looking now quite anxious and irate giving her answers Judge Derek Rodgers finally called a halt to proceedings to allow for a short lunch break.

Again questions arise as to why these three dog wardens employed by Belfast City Council feel the need to give three variations of their statements and why one staff member was clearly seen and heard on a video played to the court room stating Lennox had bitten someone when all those involved knew this to be untrue.

The first day’s proceedings ended with only the Belfast City Council dog wardens taking to the stand. Judge Derek Rodgers asked for the court to resume the following Friday for a second day to enable all witnesses to take the stand.

Day Two Of Lennox Appeal Hearing – 23rd September 2011

Picture Source OurDogs.co.uk

The second day of Lennox’s appeal hearing heard from the remaining witnesses, Peter Tallack acting as expert witness for Belfast City Council, Sarah Fisher acting as Lennox’s expert witness and Ms Barnes, Lennox’s registered owner.

First to take the witness stand was Peter Tallack (Pictured) acting for Belfast City Council as breed identifier. Peter Tallack, an ex Metropolitan Police PC of 25 years who acted as a dog handler whilst serving as a PC until his retirement. Mr Tallack took the witness stand to be cross examined and as proceedings progressed Mr Tallack’s replies became more aggressive and agitated as he seemed extremely uncomfortable during which he continually fidgeted. In a bizarre outburst a flustered, blush faced Mr Tallack who was seemingly attempting to evade a question when being cross examined took from his pocket a handkerchief, wiped his face and brow several times, sipped from a glass of water before boasting to Judge Derek Rodgers “Your Honour I am sorry I cannot continue as people in the gallery are looking at me.” Before leaving the witness stand Mr Tallack implied that as Ms Barnes walks with a limp she should not own a dog of such size or strength, this comment was immediately halted by Ms Barnes Barrister who objected to Mr Tallack’s comment stating “You are not a medical professional and therefore you do not know my clients medical history.”

Picture Source TTouchTTeam.com

Next to take the witness stand was Sarah Fisher (Pictured) acting as Lennox’s behavioural expert. Sarah Fisher has many years experience working with all types of animals and is one of the UK’s leading professionals in animal behaviour. Sarah Fisher is also accredited as the UK’s highest qualified Equine and Companion Animal TTouch Instructor and runs the UK TTouch Centre that offers help in training, handling and rehabilitation of horses and companion animals. Sarah Fisher explained her findings to the court and also points of importance that had been raised in her assessment video that had been shown to the court on day one of the appeal. The court heard much expert evidence from Sarah Fisher regarding Lennox’s physical and mental condition and finished her cross examination by explaining that Lennox is a “friendly dog” who “does not pose a threat to the public” Before leaving the witness stand Judge Derek Rodgers took time to thank Sarah Fisher for her evidence.

Finally the court heard from Lennox’s owner. Ms Barnes took to the witness stand and when cross examined explained to the court and Judge Derek Rodgers how her Daughter and Lennox bonded from a very early age due to her Daughters ongoing health problems that stops her Daughter from playing outside like most normal children do each day, the court heard how Lennox has acted as a therapy dog for Ms Barnes Daughter. Ms Barnes continued by telling the court that since Lennox’s seizure by Belfast City Council that her ill Daughter has been distraught, lonely and not the same child and explained how Lennox’s absence has disrupted the entire Family’s everday life. Continuing to be cross examined by Belfast City Council’s Barrister Ms Barnes, who has other pets and also foster’s dogs, maintained that she would not have kept Lennox if he posed any danger. “Much as I love dogs and I have worked with dogs for over 20 years, my first priority is as a mother,” she told Belfast County Court.

Steven Molloy, Barrister for Belfast City Council, put it to Ms Barnes that Lennox deals poorly with stressful situations and strangers, “He’s waiting to go off,” he said. Ms Barnes replied: “No, he’s not waiting to go off. What you need to understand is that to Lennox a stressful situation is strangers forcing themselves physically on him.” Mr Molloy continued by claiming all the evidence pointed to the dog being dangerous and capable of attacking without notice but Ms Barnes insisted: “No, it’s not correct. All dogs have four legs, they all have teeth and they all have capabilities.”

Judge Derek Rodgers will give his decision on Lennox’s fate this Friday 30th September at Belfast Laganside Courts.