Thursday, 21 June 2012

The clock is ticking for Lennox

The last few days have been a bit of a blur. I've never re-written an article so many times!  My second draft ran yesterday in the Guardian. I'm on the fifth version for next month's magazine.
Click here to read the Guardian version in full
The article is very short and to the point and looking back quite naive as the story has moved on so many times. Every time the phone goes or an email arrives another dimension or puzzle presents.
If you read the comments left - when I wrote this blog it was 600 plus - you will either get a headache or a heart attack.
My perception was that Guardian readers are usually lovely, sensitive folk. Intelligent, evolved, caring often vegetarian and anti-establishment. Perhaps their online client base is different to the lovely folk I used to see queueing for the fantastic Franco's Pizzas in Brixton every Saturday clutching their beloved Weekend Guardians.
Maybe people become much more extreme when they hide behind a user name, but I've never seen such a collective of dog haters in my life.
As the postings started to slow we had only a handful of users who wouldn't or couldn't stop coming back for another bite.
Oddly, I could more understand the people who were consistently anti-dog. But there was one poster however who seemed remarkably obsessed with all the details of the case and determined to highlight and list every negative she could find.
Believe me in the last two or three days I must have heard and seen every conspiracy theory there is with relation to Lennox and believe me it makes Watergate seem lightweight when it comes to complexity. But nothing has changed my support for Lennox getting one last chance to prove he is safe.
I know Pit Bulls are meant to have a reputation for fighting, but it's definitely humans who seem to have an addiction to conflict. I asked one of the main attackers of Lennox's owners why she wanted the dog dead and she claimed she didn't. But the hours she had spent cataloging their every real or imagined misdemeanour was quite chilling.
It was if she couldn't see that by attacking the case for saving Lennox she was putting the case for killing him.
I have come to the conclusion that this is a very complex story but when you cut through all the areas of dispute you come down to some pretty simple facts that have very little to do with Lennox's owners and lots to do with flawed breed specific legislation.
Lennox was taken away because of a tape measure - not because of his behaviour. If there hadn't been Breed Specific Legislation he'd never have been locked up for two years. If he'd been a cute shaggy dog he'd be still at home and not on death row. If a fluffy dog's licence had lapsed there'd probably have been a fine, not imprisonment.
Is Lennox dangerous? If so, was he like that before he ended up on death row?
No one had ever complained about him.
Expert witness Sarah Fisher didn't see a dangerous dog - read her statement on Victoria Stilwell's blog. Dr David Ryan's testimony was mainly positive, although he had some reservations as to where the dog should live in the future - and remember he was seeing Lennox without pain or stress relieving drugs.
One assessment - the prosecution witness - thought Lennox "was about to go off" whatever that means.
I'm sure normally the courts don't allow for speculation, just observation.
All three witnesses agreed that Lennox definitely didn't bite them.
But he's still been locked up for two years and allegedly even taunted with sticks to see if he's aggressive.
The judge chose to listen to the negatives and ignore the positives. And from my snapshot of the Guardian general public, if any of those guys leaving the nasty comments were wearing the wig they'd kill every big, strong dog 'just in case'.
The days are running out for a pardon or a point of law and the eyes of the world are watching with astonishment and intrigue.
Genuine offers are coming in from all over the world to take Lennox and give him a home away from this dreadful legislation. But unless the judge says he's not a danger, he dies.
As you've read in the Guardian, Jim Crosby wants to help establish whether Lennox really is a danger. Here's his excellent letter... no reply so far... why wouldn't they take him up on this offer? There really is nothing to lose.

Secretary of State, Northern Ireland
Rt. Hon. Owen Paterson, MP
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

20 June, 2012


Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing to offer expert assistance in the case of the dog Lennox, currently at the center of controversy in Belfast.  I may also be able to suggested a mediated remedy that would allow the Belfast City Council and the Government of Northern Ireland to extricate themselves without loss of public respect, yet with compassion for the individuals.

Please let me first introduce myself.  My name is James Crosby.  I am a retired Police Lieutenant, a former Animal Control Division Manager, a Certified Canine Behavior Consultant, and an internationally recognized expert on fatal dog attacks and dog aggression.  I have consulted on fatalities and dangerous dog issues across the US, Canada, and even in India.  I have trained Animal Control Officers and Law Enforcement agencies in the proper investigation of dog related fatalities.  I have also, as a trainer, behavior consultant, Animal Control Director and investigator built extensive experience with the complex of breeds currently referred to as "Pit Bulls', those animals regulated under your Dangerous Dog Act.  I have personally investigated 15 dog related fatalities against humans, and have conducted hands-on evaluations of thirty (30) dogs that have killed humans after said attacks.

I will not criticize the efforts to date in this case, nor the experts brought in.  I will, however, suggest that an evaluation by an completely unrelated, expert party with such experience as I have beyond the experts previously available to the BCC could provide the BCC and the Office of the Secretary with the opportunity to be seen as reaching for an independent opinion, and a possible solution that would both protect the citizens of Northern Ireland and allow the dog Lennox to live out his life in peace.

I am not suggesting that Lennox be allowed to go home to the Barnes family: as both a Police Officer and an Animal Control Director I am a pragmatist and see that option is  unworkable on two fronts.  First, the Barnes family would be potentially subject to retribution or intimidation by strongly opinionated private parties, creating strain on them and the local Constabulary.  There would be a potential for overt action against the dog.  More importantly, the local Dog Wardens would be in a completely untenable position: were Lennox to act in a dangerous manner they would be accused of being unfair and biased, yet if unfounded accusations were filed against Lennox they would be accused of failing to protect the public safety.

My suggestion is to allow me access to evaluate Lennox and then provide an opinion.  If, and that is not a foregone conclusion, I find that Lennox is not dangerous to the public safety, I understand that there may be options:  first, that the BCC could retract their complaint, with conditions, to allow Lennox to be removed.  Alternately, you might be able, as Secretary, to make an exceptional declaration that the dog could be allowed to leave Northern Ireland and the UK forever, to be placed permanently with an established and reputable sanctuary.  Either alternate would remove Lennox from your jurisdiction.  I would even take personal responsibility to escort Lennox from Northern Ireland to his place of sanctuary to insure that no one is exposed to any possible action by this dog.  On the other hand, if Lennox is indeed found to be clearly dangerous and a public risk, I will say so clearly and elucidate that opinion with solid, behavioral observations.  The BCC and your Office could then be seen to have sought independent opinion, reconsidered the previous position, protected the public from a safety risk, and yet been compassionate to this particular case.  Lennox would then be destroyed, having had the greatest effort extended to be as fair and balanced as possible.

This would cost nothing to the BCC, Belfast, or Northern Ireland.  Additionally, I have nothing to promote at the expense of the reputation of Northern Ireland or Belfast.  There are sponsors that are willing to absorb my travel costs and lodging and the cost to transport Lennox.  I would be acting pro-bono in this case.  I believe that such a solution would help soften the current situation.  The world-wide attention that this case has received, including this morning's piece in The Guardian, has grown far beyond rationality.  Resolving this without criticism of past action would improve the public profile of the City of Belfast, and place you as Secretary in the position of having achieved a reasonable solution to this difficulty.

I am attaching a curriculum vitae to establish my credentials.  I am also providing a link to a recent article in the US that explains a bit of what I have done and what I do, along with the current Guardian piece.

Thank you for your time and for your consideration in this matter.

James W. Crosby
Canine Behavior Consultant
Jacksonville, FL, USA
If you want to add your name to the petition to save Lennox here is the Link


9 comments:

Molly The Wally said...

Hi fellow SW'er worry not about the nasty comments , just think what kind of person takes time to sit down and just write something nasty. Glass less than half empty miserable no marks. They probably hate everything. Sad.
Best wishes Molly

www.llaav.com said...

How odd that you take out of context what a few of the commenters were trying to point out. The dog should not die because of BSL but the council didn't write the law, or can they or the courts change it. The owners have made and incited others to make death threats against dog wardens and council staff, how dos that help the dog? had the campaing been run honestly and had the dog not been aggressive he would almost certainly have been exempted. By the way Beverley, you said in your article that you knew of no other exempted dogs in NI apart from Bruce. There were four in November last year in Belfast, all supported exemptions by the very dog warden who seized Lennox. Have a nice day.

Richard Bos said...

Sadly, although we like to describe ourselves as 'a nation of animal lovers', the fact is, we are not. How else can we account for all the thousands of dogs PTS every year, and rescue centres struggling to cope with relentlessly rising numbers of dogs, cats and other animals found as strays or cruelty cases?

On Gumtree and other websites there are page after page of pets for sale for often very trivial reasons.

We, as a nation, have become so detached from nature, that cats and dogs have become cute disposable commodities to be consumed and got rid of when it becomes inconvenient, however people choose to dress up their detatchment with fake pretences of care.

There are still millions of people out there who really do care, and do their bit for animal welfare. It will never be enough, but we can all make a difference for Lennox and many others. Thank you Beverley.

Anonymous said...

I read the guardian article and like you was disgusted with the comments that people left. I appreciate people have opinions that differ from mine or yours but do they have to be so vile and vulgar in expressing there disagreement, whatever happened to being constructive. Everywhere people will dispute or agree with what happens to Lennox people will tell the truth and lie about him just so they can boast they posted this and that as they think it makes them look intelligent. Lennox has no voice of his own so we have to trust those who speak for him and just like so many miscarriages of justice in years to come everyone will see why this is wrong. Lennox may not get the chance to be free and live his life in a loving home but I hope whatever happens changes things for other so none of it was in vain. I'm not a fan of some breeds but this is my personal preference not because of a bad experience but even then I would still not spout some of the vile things people posted about your article just because I don't like the breed. Every one deserves to live a life dogs included. Adults and children kill yet they are treated better than Lennox has been even killers get visits from family!!

StripyJules said...

Lennox has become a figurehead for dogs who have been or are to be destroyed because of their circumstances, rather than their deeds. Sadly I feel Belfast Council are unable to back down now, and Lennox will die.

Leaving aside his breed (or not) and his "issues" - which seem to vary according to which story you read, so I don't feel I can comment on that - and just speaking of him as a plain-and-simple dog who seems to have been let down by the people around him, he is one of hundreds - maybe thousands - who will die, maybe suffering neglect, trauma and abuse along the way. Got to page four of reading these comments and my phone rang (I volunteer for a rescue charity). Could we take in a young dog in the pound about to be "put to sleep"; lovely nature, good with people and other dogs. We can't, we're full, like just about every other rescue I know... This dog's only "crime" is to find himself in a stray pound, but he and hundreds like him will end up in a body bag.

Too much breeding for looks, status, fashion, money. Too little education (or interest) in dog behaviour or training. Free ads on the internet. "Designer" cross breeds sold to people who could barely look after a Nintendo. Too easy disposal when you mess it up: let someone else make the decision to "put to sleep" your unsociable dog. Too much prejudice...

Pro-dog culture? I don't think so. I feel sorry for Lennox, but he is just one snowflake that's landed on the very tip of an enormous iceberg.

Michelle said...

Quote by previous poster: "The owners have made and incited others to make death threats against dog wardens and council staff, how dos that help the dog?"

Heresay and speculation mainly brought about by the likes of yourself I'm afraid. They have asked many times that any contact with Belfast City Council be calm and polite.

Quote by previous poster: "and had the dog not been aggressive he would almost certainly have been exempted"

Lennox hasn't bitten anyone while being in the council kennels otherwise I'm sure you would be more than happy to jump on that one. As to the exemption the Judge said Northern Ireland had no similar resource.

Its a simple fact of the courts preferring to believe Peter Tallack over two behavourists with more experience of animals, then his so called methods.

Its easy to come on here and question the family of Lennox yet no-one has a right to question you and yours. Have a great day.

Michelle said...

Whenever I have been on any Save Lennox site I have never once seen incites of death threats against anyone in the BCC or Dog Wardens.

That is hearsay and speculation by the likes of yourself.

I saw the videos posted on facebook last year to try and make Lennox look aggressive but it backfired, as anyone can see that Lennox was a friendly dog scared of strangers. He has never bitten anyone in kennels, if he had I'm sure you would be the first to jump on that one.

The judge said that Northern Ireland had no resource for exemption.

Its such a shame that the dog warden who was supposed to have bonded with Lennox states, under oath, that he is one of the most aggressive and unpredictable dogs she has met? Very odd thing to say.

Its also a shame that you can question Lennox and his family but no-one seems to have the right or nerve to question the court case.

Angela said...

Michelle, a number of type dogs (four I believe) have been released back to owners, exempted by the court in Northern Ireland, since late 2011, through Belfast City Council.

NI does now have the ability to exempt type dogs and return them to their owners.

Valerie said...

I'm only just finding out about the dog named Lennox that has been sentenced to death, and the only things I have seen written about him are on this blog.

People have written here that he has never bitten anyone in kennels, but has he bitten or aggressed anyone before he went into kennels? I haven't seen the reason why he was taken into "custody."

I've worked in rescue shelters and pounds all my life (I'm an OAP!) and I've seen so many nice dogs and nasty dogs put to sleep.

The fault doesn't lie with councils, dog wardens, police etc. It lies with breeders who are breeding far too many dogs and selling them to whoever has the money to pay for the pups. How many breeders, "reputable" or otherwise, vet the homes of each person who wants to buy one of their puppies, or discuss in depth whether those people are committed to keeping the dog, training it, caring for it's welfare, for all the years of the dog's life? They in themselves are a very rare breed:-(

Remember, For every dog we keep that bites, we are closing the door on that kennel to countless nice dogs, and for every dog we
home knowing it will bite, we will lose a good potential home.