This morning my twitter feed was loaded with tweets regarding Lennox, a dog who had become the focus of animal welfare advocates around the world in the last several months. He was euthanized due to his genetic makeup this morning. I found out shortly before 10am PST. Lennox was part black lab and part pitbull. In Belfast, pitbull and pitbull mixes are banned.
According to MSNBC, the Belfast City Council said that despite a massive campaign over the internet, Lennox was deemed an illegal breed and could not go back to his owners.
I had been following the buzz about Lennox, a petition was created that gathered over 200,000 signatures, as well as a Facebook page that was liked by at least 100,000 people, and a twitter account named @savelennox that had over 13,000 followers, including well-known celebrities such as Victoria Stillwell and Ceasar Milan, both who openly called for Lennox to be released and breed bans to be lifted. Ceasar Milan even offered to take Lennox and have him become part of his pack.
Lennox had support. People did not want to see him euthanized based solely on his breed. Yes, his owners had broken the law and yes, he was not allowed to live in Northern Ireland, but it was not because he had acted aggressively towards any person or animal, it was because he was simply, the wrong breed mix.
Lennox was seized when he was 5 years old in 2012 and his owner had been fighting for the last 2 years to have him given back to her. Pitbulls and bully type dogs are banned in Britain. She had petitioned, begged, and testified in court that her dog has never bitten anyone. While he had sometimes shown some hostility, he had never bitten or attacked a person.
Lennox, like many dogs, did have a hesitation with new people and would tense up. His owner would muzzle him if he was in an environment that triggered him for his safety and the safety of those around him. Regardless of her efforts, the judgement was set even though in the last 2 years while Lennox lived in a shelter he had not tried to hurt anyone.
Lennox is one of many dogs that have been euthanized solely based on their breed. Pitbulls were once revered as working dogs who made great guard dogs, were military dogs, and easy to train. The pitbull was so respected among the military in the early 20th century that they were used on the propaganda posters of the 1900′s.
When did the mindset shift?
I had to do a little hunting to find when the view of pitbulls went from respect to fear and why. In the 1980s, pitbulls began to be the dog of choice among those who participated in dog fighting rings.
From an article about pitbulls on Ceasar Milan’s website, “It is also the preferred guard dog for drug dealers and gangs, with a hugely publicized attack in 1987 in which a pit bull guarding a marijuana crop in California mauls and kills a two-and-a-half year-old boy.” After this attack, laws began cropping up that banned the breed from some counties, cities, apartment complexes, and states.
25 years later, the attitude has been shifting and some laws are being overturned. Dog daycares are starting to lift their ban on bully type dogs, apartment complexes are beginning to modify their list of banned breeds, and some places like Florida are working to overturn their ban. However, like any movement, there is always backlash.
Lennox had become a spokesdog for the pitbull movement. He was a good dog who did not deserve to die. Hopefully, his story will continue to raise awareness of the prejudice surrounding bully breeds.
Photo from Twoblackdoggies