Belfast woman loses appeal over Lennox the dog death

image captionThe case was taken by Belfast City Council

A Belfast dog owner has failed to overturn the death sentence imposed on her pitbull terrier-type pet.

Caroline Barnes was appealing a ruling that the animal, Lennox, should be destroyed because it is too dangerous.

But County Court Judge Derek Rodgers upheld the original decision after saying public safety must come first.

He said he could not be satisfied Lennox did not pose a threat based on attacks on a dog warden and former police dog handler who examined it.

Setting out the reasons behind the relevant dangerous dogs legislation, he said: "That purpose is to allow the public and particularly vulnerable members of the public such as children to walk the streets, play in parks, visit friends and even be in their own homes without fear of attack by a dog, particularly a large strong dog of a type bred for fighting."

The judge added: "Accordingly I cannot be satisfied that this dog is not a danger to the public and I dismiss the appeal."

Ms Barnes, 35, of Disraeli Court in the city, was said to be too upset by the verdict to comment.

Her six-year-old pet was seized by Belfast City Council dog wardens in May last year.

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

Expert witness evidence was given on both sides today, including that of former Metropolitan Police dog handler Peter Tallack.

He claimed the dog represented a danger due to his unpredictability.

'Waiting to go off'

But Ms Barnes insisted Lennox only has anxiety issues caused by two incidents in public and has formed a close bond with her daughter.

She rejected suggestions by a city council lawyer that the dog was "waiting to go off".

Judge Rodgers' decision comes just months after the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997 in England and Wales was extended to Northern Ireland.

The new legislation introduced a discretionary element to automatic destruction for pitbull-types, based on whether the animal is deemed a danger to the public.

Following the outcome to the case, Belfast City Council acknowledged Ms Barnes' upset but claimed it was the right decision.

In a statement it said: "We believe that if Lennox was released back to its owners, he poses a serious risk not just to them, but to members of the public.

"If we had failed in this regard, and in the event of Lennox being involved in attacking or injuring a person, the council would be found to be at fault."

Belfast City Council have advised the dog's supporters they have 21 days to lodge another appeal, if there is a point of law to do so.