Lennox’s Story: Coming to a Dog Near You

by Susi on July 10, 2012

in Boxer, Breed Specific laws, Lennox, Pit Bull

Post image for Lennox’s Story: Coming to a Dog Near You

I interrupt my series on my recent trip to Hungary to turn the spotlight on “Lennox,” a dog who, as I write, faces imminent death, if he’s not already dead.

If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, chances are good that you’ve seen references made to “Lennox” but glossed over the posts or “tweets” because his story isn’t relevant to you.  Maybe you don’t know about “Lennox” at all, but have some dim awareness of a “fuss” in Belfast in the way of demonstrations and protests.

Now that I’ve got your eyeballs, allow me to bring you up to speed about Lennox and why his story affects you. You see, Lennox is about to be put to death for the simple reason that he’s the wrong breed. And what’s happening to him is coming to a dog near you. This is not hyperbole, it’s a promise I make based on the logical consequences of intractable laws made not out of logic, but emotion and hysteria.

Lennox’s nightmare began two years ago when he was seized from his family because of the United Kingdom’s breed specific ban on “Pit Bull Terriers,” or Staffordshire Terriers.

That trip I always wanted to take to Ireland? On hold

The law extended to Northern Ireland last year and under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1997, “bully” breeds can be put down if they are considered to be a danger to the public. Lennox had never bitten anyone and his family insists he is part Labrador Retriever. No matter. That’s close enough for Belfast.

While an expert dog handler retained by Mrs Barnes described Lennox as a well-handled family dog, an expert for the City Council concluded that the animal had a severe personality defect. Color me skeptical. In our own country, it’s been found that shelter workers and animal control officers are grossly inaccurate when ascertaining a dog’s breed. I have little faith in the expertise of a city politician’s ability to assess animal behavior.

Pesky things, facts and photographs!

Towards the end of the two year legal battle, his family wrote, “Lennox is a loveable 5 year old family member. He’s an American Bull dog cross that we have owned since he was a little pup. On Wednesday the 19th May 2010 he was taken from our family home by Belfast City Council as they believe he falls under the dangerous dogs act for Northern Ireland. The Council, without seeking any proper professional guidance declared Lennox to be a breed of “Pitbull Type” and so they wish to kill him simply because he has the appearance of said breed. Lennox has never attacked anyone or anything yet the council have removed him from his home where he lives with my wife, myself, our 12 year old Daughter and his soul mate Juicy, a 2 year old female boxer. Belfast City Council are pressuring our family to sign him over to them to be destroyed however we feel the need to fight his case, he cannot speak but we will be his voice! If this was a human we would declare this racism. We ask every kind hearted person for your support, don’t let them murder him.” See the petition here.

Lennox’s shameful circumstance for the last two years. Surrounded by saw dust and feces

Last month, Northern Ireland’s most senior judges rejected an appeal by his owner, Caroline Barnes, to overturn the decision of two lower courts which deemed Lennox “unpredictable.”  The final day of the 28-day reprieve ends tonight at midnight.

In my view, Lennox has become the poster child for why Breed Specific Laws are wrong. I’m not alone:

  • Victoria Stilwell, internationally-renowned dog trainer and star of the hit TV show, “It’s Me or the Dog,” stepped in with her own campaign to save Lennox;
  • Cesar Milan’s tweet, “I know about the Lennox situation. Its a decision I truly don’t agree with. My team is working to find a better solution to help #savelennox” turned into headlines and now, the Millan Foundation has become involved to “save Lennox.”
  • Lennox has several Facebook pages and any number of blogs have dedicated themselves to his plight;
  • A massive letter writing campaign was launched to the merchants and businesses of Belfast encouraging them to contact their members of Parliament to seek clemency for Lennox – and under threat that their own businesses would be boycotted;
  • Protests both in Belfast and in front of the Irish consulate in New York City took place.

Both Stilwell and Millan have offered to pay all expenses and relocate Lennox to the United States to live out his life, but have received no replies. Doesn’t this lack of response make you wonder if the real point of Lennox’s death is more for the Belfast City Council to flex its muscle, and less about protecting the citizens of Belfast from one dog?

The Belfast City Council has given no indication the court order will not stand. “The council has a duty which it performs reluctantly in order to ensure public safety. Re-homing will not deal with the issues in this case- the dog has been found to be unpredictable and dangerous by experts,” said a spokeswoman. Lennox’s family have since been advised by their legal team that there are no grounds for any further appeal.

And so we wait.

And while we wait, let me assert that this isn’t an Irish problem. The North Country Gazette reported the story of “Oreo:”

In 2009, a one-year old dog named Oreo was intentionally thrown off a sixth floor Brooklyn roof top by her abuser.

Oreo sustained two broken legs and a fractured rib. Oreo also appeared to have been beaten in the past—several of the neighbors in the building where Oreo lived reported hearing the sounds of the dog being hit. The ASPCA nursed her back to health and arrested the perpetrator. They also dubbed her the “miracle dog.”

The miracle was short-lived. According to the ASPCA, when Oreo recovered from her injuries, she started to show aggression. After a series of temperament tests, the ASPCA made the decision to kill her. The New York Times reported the story the day before Oreo’s scheduled execution.

Pets Alive, a sanctuary in New York offered to take Oreo, explaining that they had experience rehabilitating dogs deemed aggressive and offering her lifetime care, including plenty of socialization and walks if the rehabilitation was not successful. They were ignored, hung up on and lied to. And the ASPCA chose to kill the dog instead.

That afternoon, Oreo lay dead, the victim not of her former abuser, but poisoned by the ASPCA.

As a result of Oreo’s ordeal, the Companion Animal Adoption & Rescue Act (CAARA), also known as “Oreo’s Law” would have insured that such a situation would never happen again in New York if passed by the NYS Legislature. The bill established standards for the care of abandoned, stray or seized animals and would have required the release of a shelter animal to a rescue group upon request of the rescue group prior to euthanasia of the animal.

I honestly don’t know the outcome of “Oreo’s law,” but debate over dogs like her were inspired by the proposal of this law. Many authorities insisted that the language of the law would not have helped Oreo and that New York should have considered, instead, a bill that would require public shelters to work with qualified rescue and transport coordinators with protocols in place for dealing with dogs with aggression or behavior issues.

Lennox has no history of such issues, but it’s enough that he looks the part. “Bully” breeds became notorious for their participation in dog fights, a role they were thrust into by man, or someone like Michael Vick, if you want to put a face on a dog fighter. Breed specific legislation went global years ago, and for all I know, may have started in my own proverbial backyard – Denver.

The shameful legacy of Denver’s breed specific ban on Pit Bulls – or anything that looks like one

The available studies on breed specific legislation, however, all lead to the same conclusion: dog bites do not decrease in communities where breed bans and/or regulations have been passed.

In 1996, a Scottish study entitled “Does the Dangerous Dogs Act Protect Against Animal Attacks” looked at the three month period before and after the implementation of Breed Specific bans.  The study found that the banned or regulated breeds were but a small percentage of bites, and that a different breed (which I won’t name) and mixed breed dogs were the most common breed involved (in 24.2% and 18.2% attacks, respectively), while the restricted breeds accounted for only 6.1% of the attacks. http://www.dogtrainingireland.ie/documents/klaussen1.pdf

From the Defending Dog web site:

In September 2002, the Administrative Court of Berlin ruled null and void the government of Lower Saxony, Germany’s breed specific law related to 14 breeds of dogs.  This ruling was based, in part, by a study by Esther Schalke, PhD, DVM, which demonstrated that breed specific legislation was ineffective.

A 2006 Australian study entitled Breed-specific legislation and the pit bull terrier:  Are the laws justified? concluded that the data collected in the United States to support the theory that pit bulls posed a unique danger to the public is flawed by methodological shortcomings.  The study also concluded that the evidence does not sustain the view that pit bulls are a uniquely dangerous breed, and breed-specific laws aimed to control it have not been demonstrated by authorities to be justified by its attack record.

In 2007, a Spanish study compared dog bites reported to the health department of Aragon, Spain for 5 years before and 5 years after the implementation of breed specific legislation in the form of a Dangerous Dog Act.  The Spanish study concluded, among other things, that there was no change in the number of dog bites reported, and that the restricted breeds, were responsible for less than 4% of the reported bites both before and after the BSL took effect

In June 2008, the Netherlands repealed a 15 year ban on pit bulls after research proved that it did not improve public safety and dog bite incidents did not decrease.

In March 2009, Italy repealed its long-standing breed specific law in which 17 dogs were identified as “dangerous breeds.”  The breed ban was replaced with a law making owners more responsible for their pet’s training and behavior.

And under laws of Lennox’s own country: In June 2008, a report regarding the United Kingdom’s Dangerous Dog Act of 1991 was issued.   According to the report commissioned by pet insurer LV, the number of people hospitalized for dog attacks has increased by almost 50% in the past decade — this is despite having breed specific legislation in place since 1991.

I could easily have named this blog entry: The 21st Century: a time of mixed messages.  Some of us rail against the death penalty for people convicted of heinous crimes, but turn a blind eye when it comes to killing a dog simply because of its breed.  We’re quick to denounce racism, but are passive in the face of breed specific legislation that does the very same thing to an entire species.  We’ll participate in a vigorous campaign to have our favorite television show renewed, but become limp-wristed when it comes to writing a letter or making a phone call to voice our disgust with bad dog laws.

What is wrong with us?

I’ve come to think that we act only when our own personal interests are at stake.  And this is why I come full circle back to Lennox.  His story could be your story.  Who will come to your aid when your dog is taken from you for no reason other than that he looks like a Pit Bull?  You think I exaggerate?

Three years ago, I found a dog whose collar was missing its tags.  She was well kept and as sweet a dog as I’d ever met, and clearly someone loved her.  I carpet-bombed the neighborhood and surrounding areas with “found” signs that included her photograph, and reluctantly took her to the nearest shelter because my own circumstances didn’t allow me to keep a stray.  At the “in-take” desk of the shelter, I was told that if I left the dog there, they would put her down immediately because she looked like a Pit Bull.

She was a Boxer.  Not a great Boxer, but a Boxer.  Boxer was close enough to Pit Bull for this shelter which operated under the auspices of Denver County where Pit Bulls, Staffordshires, etc., are guilty for having a pulse.  You see, her behavior didn’t matter. Her appearance did.

Circumstances be hanged. I kept her in an x-pen in my garage until her owner discovered one of the posters three days later. They were ecstatic to see each other and the story had a happy ending.  Had this happened in Denver County, however, she could have ended up in the heap of dead dogs whose picture appears above. I have no doubt that at least some of those dogs were once someone’s pet.

The Animal Rights groups are behind Breed Specific Laws, of course, and I’m sorry to offend any of my readers, but you are living in a fool’s paradise if you think that dog legislation won’t eventually impact you regardless of your dog’s breed.  In discussing this issue with fellow dog fanciers, some of whom have been fighting the good fight for years, I’ve learned that animal rights groups have been able to pressure legislatures and city councils to ban *any* breed as long as it’s for  “the public good,’ and all they have to do is to demonstrate a ‘precedent’ that a breed is dangerous, regardless of the circumstances. They’ll keep adding a breed to the list of “dangerous breeds” until the day comes when all dogs appear on the list.  There have already been communities that have tried to outlaw dogs over qualifiers such as size, etc. How long before your breed is banned because it barks too much, has too much hair (problematic to those with allergies?)  or its herding instincts are dangerous to small kids?  Pick any arbitrary reason, in time, it will be reason enough for animal rights zealots.

It was among the darkest days of our country’s history when we did this with people. How much longer are we going to let this be “okay” with our dogs?

And how much longer before you do something about it?

Editor’s note: Lennox’s battle ended on July 11th when he was put to death.

 

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Lea Maxwell July 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm

the photo about 1/2 way down made me absolutely sick–but with shame. I’m a former shelter worker in a “no pit bulls adopted” shelter and had my role in similar deaths. I will probably never forgive myself for being a passive participant, even though I didn’t know better then, but the best I can do is be good to the adopted pit bull I share my home with.

Thank you for an educational post.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Lea, the song, “Amazing Grace” was written by a sea captain whose vessel carried a countless number of people across the ocean to become slaves. He ultimately realized his own humanity and wrote an inspired song of hope and repentance. Your time in the shelter makes you an authority on this troubing subject, and like “Amazing Grace,” you will inspire others with your experiences. Never stop telling your story, but do forgive yourself so that you can move on and be that voice of reason among those who might not listen to anyone else. I very much appreciate your reply, my heart is touched – and give that dog of yours a big sloppy kiss for me.

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Tammi July 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Lea,

We who network know that often the person that is there at end of that BSL journey is not the person at fault. I wish I direct you to a “open letter” that made the rounds in the rescue network. The man swore he was going to hell because he was the one putting the animals in the gas chamber, he was a city employee and he ended up moved to this job or not employed. all of us cried reading his letter about the night before how he would go spend his own money to buy food, sneek in and let the dogs out and feed them and love them to let them know someone cared. He did the same for cats and even smuggled some kittens out to escape their fate. Like you. that man will not go to hell in my opinion, you both were the last loving person that animal knew and you gave them love.

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Melissa July 12, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Lea and to anyone else experiencing this,

EXACTLY what Susi and Tammi said above.

Maybe you had to do what you did and live through your own experiences to help others.

How can a drug counselor be an effective counselor without having gone through the same as his charges that he is guiding….? Your experiences will help teach others and hopefully make some change through education.

Melissa

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Susi July 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Indeed, Melissa. Well stated.

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JenniferW July 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm

What a beautifully written article. So many people are saying it’s just a dog but you have described perfectly the bigger picture. Lennox has never had one complaint against him. He is what the family calls a therapy dog for their disabled little girl. That the Belfast City Council would go through with what they called in a statement to the bbc “his humane execution” is a travesty.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for the kind words. The whole situation is as you said, a travesty. And so very, very sad.

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Marci July 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Great article. I’ve been following Lennox’s story for over a year and my heart is very heavy today.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm

As is mine, Marci. It’s a dark hour for all of us who love dogs, love our freedom and rail against poorly written and inherently unfair laws.

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Christina July 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
@christinastuff

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Lauren July 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm

The whole situation is sad. Apparently, Lennox is a lab x American Bulldog mix — from what I’ve read neither are banned breeds in Northern Ireland. But hey, he *looks* like a banned breed, so he must die. Kind of like the boxer you found.

I think the only thing that is “vicious” and requires “euthanizing” is BSL. All the Lennox’s of the world? Nope.

And, you can also color me skeptical about the “severe personality defect” finding. If he *is* showing signs of aggression, I would expect it has to do with the fact he’s been caged in a dirty kennel surrounded by poop for the last two years. I’m pretty friendly, I don’t bite, but you know, if someone put me in a concrete cell with sawdust and didn’t clean my environment out in a timely manner, I’d be pretty ticked off. And a dog’s only way of telling you he’s ticked off would be by “acting out”.

So if he is aggressive/unpredictable/dangerous now, I’m sure it would have to do with how he’s being kept, if the picture of him is any indication of how he’s been living the last two years. I’m not buying that he was before his seizure by BCC.

Unfortunately, I think BCC is in a spot where they feel they can’t back down. I’m not excusing their stubbornness. But if they let him go now, they’re basically admitting they were wrong, that he’s not dangerous, etc. Better for their egos to maintain that he’s dangerous and relocation would be irresponsible than to admit they’re wrong.

I despise BSL. Did I mention I think it’s the only thing that needs to be euthanized? I think I did. Well I’m saying it again. The only thing that needs euthanized here is stupid laws.

If we took an African American (or someone with dark skin who looked like one), and said they’re unpredictable, a thug, possibly could murder somebody, and put them in jail or death row, we would call that racism. Well, folks, here is breedism — the furry counterpart to racism.

(BTW, I do not in any way intend to offend anyone with that last paragraph.)

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm

You certainly didn’t offend me and your point is taken. The ramifications of BSL are far greater than we can imagine, I fear, and Lennox was just one of many innocents to be pushed down that slippery slope. I fear you are correct in your assessment of how things will end. It’s so very sad.

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Confused July 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Is this happening in Ireland or Northern Ireland? You reference both, but they are two different countries. Belfast is in Northern Ireland, not Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, Ireland is not.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I appreciate the distinction, thanks for the correction! This has been happening in Belfast.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

You’re correct, “Confused,” the situation is happening in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I’ve made a corretion and appreciate you pointing this out!

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Confused July 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

Thank you for the clarification. I just read that Lennox was put to sleep. I am stunned, truly shocked, that this is happening anywhere in the world. I have family in Dublin and wanted to be able to speak about this with them when I see them next month.

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JenniferT July 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Very well written and SO very true!! I hope this reaches into the minds of people who don’t yet realize just how widespread badly made dog laws are becoming.

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Robin Belyea July 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm

What’s significant to note is that Italy, in 2003, initially designated **92** breeds as dangerous, with not only requirements of the dogs to be muzzled in public, but prohibitions on children or criminals owning them. Included on that list were Pembroke Welsh corgis, St. Bernards, and Newfoundlands. That list was eventually trimmed to 17 banned breeds (mostly breeds known to be used for fighting or guarding), and then was repealed in 2009.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

That IS interesting, Robin. I’m delighted it was repealed!

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tracey scott July 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

i am gutted that Lennox has not yet been released either to his family or to be able to live his life out in the USA. However, what worries me now is that should he be released I hope his 2 years of being in the pound has not changed his personality and made him aggressive. I do not think Belfast council thought of how much power facebook, twitter and the internet has and that Lennox would become as famous as he has, but I doubt they will give in and release him, for all he deserves to be back with his family.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm

You could be right, Tracey, though I’d love for the City Council to err on the side of life and hope. Your term, “gutted” is perfect. It’s about how all of us feel right now.

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Susie July 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Thank you for the beautiful, most truthful story I have seen in such a long time. There is no reason for BSL – any dog can be mean – it is all dependent on how they are raised. Thank you also for the little blurb on Oreo – I remember that story all too well. I totally agree that Belfast officials are just flexing their muscles with no care or concern for Lennox.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Many thanks for the compliment, Susie. I wish the story had been about yet another random act of kindness towards a Pit Bull, or a brilliant piece of legislation that focuses on a dog’s behavior and not his breed. Perhaps some day……

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Lisa July 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Great post, but I’m a little confused by something. I don’t know of any animal rights groups that support BSL or anything similar. Can you please clarify?

And BTW, I seriously wonder if Belfast CC isn’t allowing Lennox to be released because he’s already dead. They won’t let the family see him or even give them permission to take their boy home after euthanization. Seems highly suspicious.

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Susi July 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Lisa, as far as I know, the Humane Society Of The United States penned a letter which strongly suggested that they supported breed-specific mandatory spay neuter in Louisville, KY. Also, this article in the San Francisco Chronicle cites PETA as also supportive of an anti-Staffordshire Terrier stance: http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/Controlling-an-animal-as-deadly-as-a-weapon-2629558.php. And finally, the Best Friends Sanctuary endorses which would borrow some breed specific legislation: http://www.lovedoesnotdiscriminate.com/files/BestFriends.pdf.

As for the current state of Lennox, I can’t find any information to indicate whether he’s alive or not. I agree with you. It’s suspicious.

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Kamrie July 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I didn’t even think of that Lisa, I did think it was quite suspicious as well. Honestly with the way this situation has been handled, it wouldn’t shock me. So terribly sad.

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Tammi July 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I love your article! While at most I can only crostpost to help rescue animals and try to educate others with my pets FB page, what you have written is an excellent education! I have 2 dogs and have rescued several “senior” cats that were dropped and the local shelter. my female dog, Prissy was a gift from my mom adopted from the same shelter, she looked like the cutest little yellow puppy. Forward a year and we noticed her appearance has some “pit bull” features. My mother also has a Staffie Terrier of her own. We have done our best to become more educated and since I started networking I also see where so many dogs are labeled “pit bull” like and pay the price. Oh the irony that a girl raised with Pomeranians is now a anti BSL woman and I try to teach all around me! Thank you so much for we have all said it. “first one breed, then the next, what will you do when they come for your dog?” my answer, you are not taking my dog without one hell of a fight!

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Janine Alfke July 11, 2012 at 6:24 am

Please know that I have signed every petition available, read every blog, and written to the Belfast City Council about this atrocity that has befallen you and your family. The whole world weeps with you as you go through this horrific nightmare. If there were more I personally could have done, I would have done it. My pets are my life, and they do not deserve what happened to your Lennox, ever. Please know that the world mourns with you and yours, and we ARE paying attention, and we ARE trying to help bring about change all over the world. I am so sorry this happened to you and that we as a world were unable, despite all our fury, letters and complaints, to save your beloved Lennox. We are all with you in spirit. SO SO SO sorry. Janine

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Susi July 11, 2012 at 9:48 am

A lovely note, I’m sure it will bring some comfort to know of Lennox’s support.

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Jennifer July 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

I am terribly sorry :(

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Susi July 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm

We all are – it did not have the outcome we wanted for Lennox nor for liberty.

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Kamrie July 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Great article! What a tragic loss this world suffered today. Having a rescued pit mix myself, BSLs and the death of these innocent dogs just breaks my heart.

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Susi July 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Kamrie, though I think today, everyone feels “gutted” but the outcome of Lennox’s story. I can hardly believe that in a free society, this would happen, let alone a moral one. Someeone posted this poem on my Facebook page. Kleenex alert:

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bestuvall July 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm

If every shelter worker REFUSED to kill even for ONE day.. what a better world this would be

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Ann July 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Susie, thank you for writing such an articulate well crafted commentary on Lennox and why we should all care about this incredible miscarriage of justice. All I can think about now, is a little girl who is heartbroken over the loss of her beloved companion and who became a pawn in an heartless battle for power and the frightened dog who was forced to live a 2 year existence in solitary confinement with very little human contact. How cruel is that to extract a social animal from everything that is familiar to him and place him alone in a tiny little cement cell. That sort of treatment could drive a human to insanity why would a dog be any different. Some day we humans will finally be forced to take responsibility for the treatment we have inflicted without compassion on other living things and the punishment will be swift and merciless. Frankly, I am not sure as a species, we deserve any better.

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Susi July 14, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Your remarks are much appreciated, Ann. I, too, almost can’t bear the cruelty of Lennox’s story, to say nothing of the indictment of a legal system that allows a pet to be seized without recourse from a family. The ramifications of this situation are grave for animal lovers and lovers of liberty, alike; increasingly, I believe the dog openers are the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine” who are the harbingers of things to come for the rest of society, be they pet owners or not.

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guliana July 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm

people are so ignorant . pitbulls are not mean dogs at all it all depends on how you train you pet i have a toy yorkie and she is the nicest dog ever . you can not treat animals like they were shittt . animals come before people in my life . no animal have ever made me stress out like people have rest in peace to all does innocent animals x3

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Susi July 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Ignorance is at the root of many ills, Guliana, you’re right. And I can forgive that. It’s when it persists in the face of common sense, hard statistics and actual fact that I can’t abide. As you say, rest in peace, little innocents.

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sandy weinstein July 26, 2012 at 12:01 am

this just makes me sick. i did facebook and twitter blast abt lennox. cant believe that they would not let someone save him and take him to the us….
in nc, again the puppy mill law failed to pass b/c of the pork barrel people giving too much money….they are afraid that if it passes, the law will come after them abt the way they treat farm animals….so again, our legislators caved in and refused to pass the bill, b/c too much money was put in their back pockets….

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