Dangerous dog is put to sleep following final court decision
11 July 2012
Belfast City Council confirmed today that the dog Lennox, an illegal pit-bull terrier type, has been humanely put to sleep. This was in accordance with the Order of the County Court which was affirmed by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.
Whilst there is an exemption scheme to which dogs of this type (pit-bull terrier type) may be admitted as an alternative to destruction, there were no such measures that could be applied in this case that would address the concerns relating to public safety. The Council`s expert described the dog as one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had come across.
Over the past two years, Council officials have been subjected to a sustained campaign of abuse including threats of violence and death threats. The Council has been in ongoing contact with the PSNI in relation to that.
The Council regrets that the court action was necessary but would emphasise that the safety of the public remains its key priority.
Due to an ongoing legal situation the council is unable to discuss or release any other information at this time. This statement is in response to continuing misleading commentary and coverage of this case and to address the high level of correspondence in relation to this issue.
In light of the level of abuse, and in some cases threats received, council staff are unable to discuss the matter with members of the public.
The council would stress that putting any dog to sleep is not something we want to do. However in this case, the dog was considered to be a danger to the public by our courts which had heard from a number of dog experts, including those representing the family.
These court proceedings have taken two years and have gone through a series of appeals so the evidence and decisions have been tested on a number of occasions.
The law in Northern Ireland lists a number of dogs that are regarded as dangerous dogs. In general terms these are dogs that were originally bred for fighting or which are known to have the capability to inflict serious injury.
The council did not make this law and it accepts that any dog may have the capability to attack and cause harm. The council is however under a legal obligation to enforce the law and it does so conscious of the general duty it has to ensure the health and safety of the public. In this case the council acted in the interests of public safety as it and the courts considered this dog to be dangerous, not just because it was a pit-bull type terrier.
We do not arbitrarily pursue the destruction of dogs because of their breed. In fact the council has admitted a number of dogs of the same pit-bull type to an exemption scheme that allows the dog to be returned to owners subject to conditions that address safety concerns. In this case the County Court was aware of this scheme but ruled that on the evidence presented, it could not apply it to this dog as it presented a danger to the public due to its aggressive and unpredictable behaviour and it ordered that the dog had to be destroyed.
It is also the case that because the dog posed a serious risk to the public that Lennox could not be sent to another country.
The council is appalled at the vile treatment of its staff by some individuals. Lennox was well looked after whilst in our care. The continued abuse and harassment of staff is deplorable and appears to be being fuelled by misinformation of the facts of this case.
The council understands that cases like this involving dogs do cause considerable distress to owners and others. However in this case, the danger posed by a dog was so grave that exceptional measures were required in order to protect the public.
Caroline Barnes v Belfast City Council, Court of Appeal decision delivered on 12 June 2012
Before: Morgan LCJ, Higgins LJ and Girvan LJ
Belfast City Council v Caroline Barnes, County Court decision delivered 30 September 2011
Before: His Honour Judge Rodgers
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