A Belfast family has just 21 days to save the life of their disabled daughter’s pet dog Lennox – sentenced to die by a Judge.
Animal rights campaigners have criticized the decision of County Court Judge Derek Rodgers that the dog is a pit-bull terrier deemed "too dangerous to live."
Caroline Barnes lost her appeal against the ruling and told reporters that she doesn’t know how she is going to tell her disabled daughter Brooke that her pet is about to die.
Judge Rodgers upheld the earlier court decision after ruling that "public safety must come first."
He based his decision on the opinions of a Belfast Council dog warden and an English expert who were both attacked by Lennox when they went to examine him.
The dog is now being held at a secret location for 21 days before he will be put to sleep. The controversial move follows an online campaign to save Lennox which attracted 100,000 supporters.
By Sunday, over a thousand people had placed comments on Belfast City Council’s Facebook page in response to the latest ruling with messages arriving from the UK, Ireland, America, Canada, Australia and across Europe.
Barnes wept as she left the court. “I don’t know how I am going to explain this decision to my daughter Brooke,” she said. “I feel sick. If the case was to be heard elsewhere, this wouldn’t be happening.”
The case, which has cost Belfast City Council tens of thousands of dollars, has also provoked threatening letters to Council staff including one which was covered in petrol before it was shoved through the letterbox of two staff members.
Another Council worker had the tyres on her car slashed outside her home.
A council spokeswoman said: “The campaigners also 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. It is totally unacceptable that officers, who were merely |enforcing the law as they are required to do, were subjected to such a sustained and threatening campaign.
“Lennox was seized by council dog wardens because they believed that he was a pit bull terrier-type and that he was also dangerous.
“This was backed up by an independent expert who gave evidence on the council’s behalf. We believe that if Lennox was released back to his owners he poses a serious risk, not just to them but also to members of the general public.”
Judge Rodgers told the court that he could not be satisfied that Lennox did not pose a threat to the public after listening to reports of attacks on a dog warden and a former Metropolitan Police dog handler who examined Lennox.
Judge Rodgers said: “Accordingly, I cannot be satisfied that this dog is not a danger to the public and so I dismiss the appeal.”
The Council has agreed not to put Lennox to sleep for 21 days, allowing the family to consider a further appeal.