Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson took to Twitter yesterday to condemn the decision to put Lennox to sleep, the dog who was put down on orders from Northern Ireland's highest courts after it was deemed to be a pitbull-type and dangerous to the public.

The dog belonged to Belfast woman Caroline Barnes before it was seized by Belfast City Council two years ago. On Wednesday the council confirmed it had been put down after a 28-day reprieve ran out at midnight.

'Destroying a dog that had no history of aggression is folly and shames society,' DUP leader Peter Robinson tweeted.

However the city council said that while it regretted that the court action was necessary the safety of the public remained its priority.

'Whilst there is an exemption scheme to which dogs of this type may be admitted as an alternative to destruction, there were no such measures that could be applied in this case that would address the concerns relating to public safety,' the council said in a statement. 'The Council's expert described the dog as one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had come across.'

On Tuesday evening Lennox's owners claimed they had been denied the chance to say goodbye to their pet.

'We are sorry to say at the present time Belfast city council seem to be intent on killing our boy,' their statement read. 'Despite previous assurances otherwise, we have been denied the opportunity to say goodbye. We have also been told that we cannot collect his body and bring Len home. We have been informed however that we will receive 'some' ashes in the mail.'

Animal Rights Action Network director John Carmody described Northern Ireland's Dangerous Dogs Act told UTV: 'People are today heartbroken, shedding tears and crying out loud with the news that Belfast City Council has murdered Lennox. Northern Ireland's Dangerous Dogs Act is a complete shambles and does nothing to protect their guardians, or the safety of the public from possible dog attacks. The legislation needs to be scrapped and completely reviewed with a view to Deed not Breed.'

Meanwhile First Minister Robinson said that he has written to the minister responsible, Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, asking for a review of the law.

Belfast City councillor Pat McCarthy said he understands the family's position.

'I can understand because I'm a dog owner myself and over the years I have had to have dogs put to sleep, and they become part of the family,' he told UTV. 'But we had to implement the law - we don't make the law, we are just charged with implementing it.'

The council has claimed some of its members have received threats from campaigners and so they have been in contact with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) with regard to the threats.

North Ireland's First Minister Peter RobinsonPaul Faith/PA