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Published: Thursday, 7/12/2012

British canine's death draws global outcry

Lucas County to name next 'pit bull'-type dog Lennox

Lennox, 7, was put down in Belfast after a two-year legal fight and international protests. The United Kingdom outlaws 'pit bull'-type dogs. Lennox's owners said the dog was not a 'pit bull' and never had been dangerous. Lennox, 7, was put down in Belfast after a two-year legal fight and international protests. The United Kingdom outlaws 'pit bull'-type dogs. Lennox's owners said the dog was not a 'pit bull' and never had been dangerous.

Lucas County Dog Warden Operations Manager Laura Simmons is planning to name the next black "pit bull"-type dog that the pound puts up for adoption after the dog's fallen comrade, Lennox, who was killed on Wednesday in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for no other reason than his breed.

The 7-year-old, pug-nosed dog had been imprisoned for more than two years while the Belfast City Council and the dog's family fought over what his breed was.

He was seized in April, 2010, by the city's dog wardens, who claimed he was a dangerous "pit bull"-type dog. "Pit bulls" are illegal in the United Kingdom.

Lennox's owners argued he was not dangerous, had never bitten anyone, and was a bulldog mix, not a "pit bull" terrier.

His plight had resulted in international attention from the animal-loving community. A petition on Petition Online garnered more than 212,000 signatures from all over the world.

In recent days, renowned dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, who hosts the Animal Planet dog-training program It's Me Or the Dog, offered to personally take Lennox and transport him to a U.S. sanctuary for "pit bulls."

"BSL [breed-specific legislation] tackles the wrong end of the leash," Ms. Stillwell posted on her Facebook page.

A few short years ago, what was happening in Toledo under former Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon was similar to what Lennox fell victim to, said Jean Keating, co-founder of the Lucas County Pit Crew, a nonprofit group that works to educate, advocate, support, and adopt "pit bull"-type dogs.

Dogs were targeted based on their looks, not their behavior, and many were killed.

"I'm deeply saddened to see another family suffer the loss of a companion due to its physical appearance," Ms. Keating said. "I hope someday we can get to a point where we can judge animals -- and people -- based on behavior and not appearance."

Back at the Lucas County Dog Warden's Office, the shelter has more dogs up for adoption than at any time in its history. Of the nearly 60 dogs, many are "pit bulls," including Bullseye, Devo, Joker, and Ladybug.

The pound began putting "pit bulls" up for adoption in June after Ohio changed its dangerous-dog law, under which the state declared all "pit bull"-type dogs to be inherently dangerous. Although they are temporarily confined in cement-floored kennels, they are awaiting the day when an adopter comes and springs them from captivity, which is no longer an option for Lennox.

"Across our country, we're beginning to see a wave of community after community making a change and recognizing that dangerous dogs need to be judged on the basis of behavior," Ms. Keating said, referring to Cincinnati's recent rescinding of its ban on "pit bull"-type dogs. "That's the ticket to a safe community."

Carol Dunn, founder and board president of Planned Pethood, a Toledo-based animal rescue group which adopts out "pit bulls," said she was surprised that Northern Ireland was so backward in its laws regarding dogs.

"It breaks my heart to hear of people so entrenched in falsehoods that they are unable to think logically," she said.

However, she was encouraged by the amount of international attention and outrage that Lennox's death had generated.

"The message to everyone, especially politicians, is that the care and respect for animals is now an international issue," she said. "Finally, animals are becoming valued."

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.

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