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Lennox - When a Good Dog is No More

by Mark Kumpf
July 11, 2012

When a Good Dog is No More

Recent events in Belfast have demonstrated once again that breed specific legislation provides no protection for the public or the animals as government supporters cling to this outdated paradigm. Belfast City Council, fortified by�expert� testimony and under some questionable circumstances spent two years in legal wrangling to eventually euthanize a dog which had bitten no one, caused no public scene, nor exhibited any of the behaviors that would warrant such action. In a country filled with past hatred and strife, where people died for living in the �wrong� neighborhood or following the�wrong� religion, it hurts the soul to see that same hatred and discrimination held so strongly as justification for the inexplicable euthanization of a family pet.

As an animal control officer and professional with more than twenty years in the field, there have been many dangerous dog cases that warranted euthanization as an outcome with which I have been involved. Even in those cases, there have often been alternatives, plea arrangements and even the equivalent of the�call from the governor� sparing the life of dogs ordered euthanized. Arguably, a dog which has bitten, disfigured, maimed or killed a person should not be the benefactor of such a decision but that was not the case in Belfast. Absent those deeds, the Belfast City Council relied upon the animal equivalent of Cassandra to predict the future for this dog. Would that their expert had offended Apollo and been cursed to have his predictions ignored.

More disturbing, and chillingly a reminder of past practices, the�prisoner� was never afforded any visitors, no outside neutral observers nor even given the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the family who had cherished the dog for years. Even condemned criminals, no matter how heinous their crimes may have been, have the benefit of human compassion in those final moments. The family was denied even receiving the remains to inter, instead being advised that at some point they would receive an envelope with �some�ashes. How callous and unkind. For those of us in government service, transparency provides the best defense against allegations of malfeasance. In this case, the Belfast City Council has opposed such transparency at every turn. In the end, the actions shed doubt on whether the dog was still alive at the time of the ruling or, in the alternative, that the care had been deficient leaving a living horror story to face the end, scared, alone and suffering.

Much has been said about the constant stream of threats against the dog wardens and government officials connected with the case. These included acts of physical violence and death threats. One important point to note is that the family and owners of the dog were never accused of making, condoning or endorsing any of those threats; however, it was used against them as further justification that their dog was dangerous. No matter what legal system you live under, it is a miscarriage of justice to hold an innocent party accountable for the actions of others beyond their control. Threats and acts of violence serve no purpose and may, in this case, have contributed to the very death that they sought to avoid by creating an unwinnable adversarial relationship between the dog owners and Belfast City Council.

Anyone that has lost a pet to old age, disease, accident or injury shares that pain and emptiness which nothing can fill. Losing a dog to a bureaucracy creates a pain that has no answers making it exponentially worse. Being denied even the chance to say goodbye makes that pain unending and unrelenting. Belfast City Council has hurt more peoples� lives than their claimed�potentially dangerous dog� ever did in its life. That is as much a case of cruelty as any I have ever brought before a judge.

I never met Lennox, but I have met thousands like him. I am sure that in some persons� eyes I am as bad as the dog wardens and the Belfast City Council for doing the job that I do each day but as I sit and write this, I can with clear conscience state that I have never been �those people� and they do NOT represent the thousands of animal care, control and welfare professionals or elected officials here or abroad. There are compassionate and caring people who constantly seek to make the world better for people and their pets. With those thousands I too grieve for Lennox & his family. I hope for what Lennox stood and still stands for in our society. Justice that is blind to appearance. Justice that is equal for all. If those that hate the outcome as much as I do turn that strong emotion to a commitment, we can insure that Lennox will be the LAST dog to die for what he looked like.

A good dog is no more�



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