Northern Ireland

Belfast council dog wardens targeted in hate campaign

Belfast dog wardens have been put through "a relentless campaign of intimidation and abuse," Belfast City Council has revealed.

The council said the campaign was connected with a court case on Tuesday in which a pitbull terrier-type dog was ordered to be destroyed.

It said threatening letters, one drenched in petrol, were put through the letterboxes of two female officers.

Another staff member had her car tyres slashed outside her home.

Belfast District Judge Ken Nixon ruled that the animal, Lennox, should be put down after hearing it posed a danger to the public if let out without a muzzle.

Its owner, Caroline Barnes, was given a conditional discharge for keeping a dangerous dog.

Ms Barnes, 34, of Disraeli Court, Belfast, is set to appeal the ruling to destroy her pet.

Major campaign

Lennox was seized by council dog wardens in May last year.

Since then a major campaign, which included an online petition, has been mounted on his behalf.

Belfast Council said some campaigners had inundated the council's social networking sites and embarked on an online hate campaign against individual members of staff.

"This kind of intimidation against our staff is to be utterly condemned and it is totally unacceptable that officers, who are enforcing the law as they are required to do, should be subjected to such a sustained and threatening campaign," the council said in a statement.

"Lennox was seized by council dog wardens because they believed he was a pitbull terrier type and also dangerous, and this was backed up by an independent expert who gave evidence on the council's behalf."

Caroline Barnes said in court that her dog had never bitten anyone.

However, when cross-examined by a Belfast City Council lawyer, she accepted that in certain circumstances he could be aggressive.

"Lennox's only issue is with strangers, which is when I would muzzle him," she said.

"In my home environment he is not a danger."

A further hearing is due to take place next week to decide costs and to timetable any appeal.