A few weeks ago a dog named Lennox was put to death in Belfast, Ireland for one reason only: He happened to be classified as a dangerous breed of dog.
He'd never bitten nor harmed anyone in his seven years. He was the loving and beloved pet of the Barnes family. Lennox, who was not even a pit bull terrier but rather a bull dog mix, was singled out strictly based on his breed profile which ended up being his death sentence.
Two years ago Lennox was taken from the Barnes family home in Belfast by dog wardens after city council officials identified him as a "pit bull-type" dog, which is illegal in Northern Ireland. His family was not even allowed to visit him prior to being put to death. And despite an international outcry from animal lovers, ativists and celebrities, the Belfast City Council flippantly and irresponsibly chose death over a re-homing option. Shame on the City Council and its narrow-mindedness.
Is this an isolated case? Hardly. Dog breeds are profiled, ostracized and even banned on a regular basis here in the U.S. Rental communities have taken to banning all sorts of breeds, well beyond the typical "bully breeds." In some cases Boxers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Chows and Akitas are not welcome at condo or apartment complexes.
We hear sensationalized news stories frequently of vicious dog attacks, often pointing out it was a vicious breed of dog. Here's an eye-opener folks: Dogs aren't born viscious. They are typically the result of irresponsible ownership and lack of training and discipline. A small percentage may have some mental illness or imbalance from improper breeding and in-breeding. Many are abused, and just like abused people, they typically grow up to become abusive themselves. It is a vicious cycle.
The reality is, any breed or mixed breed dog is capable of being vicious if not properly trained and responsibly supervised. The media and the public's irrational fears lead to inaccurate perceptions. While genetics can contribute to how dogs respond to different situations, it is definitely not the only determining factor, nor is it necessarily the most important one. This is why breed profiling and banning doesn't work and is just plain wrong.
This month's issue of Novadog Magazine highlights several high-profile cases in Virginia and Maryland that revolve around breed profiling. The article was written by attorney Heidi Meinzer, of Bean, Kinney & Korman, P.C., and points out the legal twists regarding cases which involve bully-breeds or other targeted breeds.
There's no justice for Lennox, but hopefully his case will bring enough attention to this issue that perceptions and prejudices will be rethought and removed to ensure that in the future harmless, innocent pets do not face unnecessary death sentences.