For those who are unaware of the situation that has led to this surprisingly little- mentioned-in-the-mainstream-press controversy, it is about a pug-nosed Belfast dog called Lennox. Dog wardens deemed the pit bull-type dog a public danger and seized him from his family two years ago.
“On the 19th May 2010, Lennox, a now six year old American Bull dog Labrador cross was wrongfully seized by Belfast City Council Dog Wardens from his loving family home where he lives with his owners and his kennel mates. Lennox committed no crime nor did any member of the public complain about him. Three Belfast City Council Dog Wardens came with the PSNI to his home unannounced. The Dog Wardens then told the Police to leave as there was no need for them at the location. The Belfast City Council Dog Wardens then had tea with his owners, smoked cigarettes, chatted, played with the other family dogs after which the Dog Wardens then measured Lennox’s muzzle and rear legs with a dress maker’s tape measure and decided on those measurements without seeking any professional advice that he was possible “Pit Bull Type Breed” and so he was led from his home to be put to death by the Council.”- From www.savelennox.co.uk
The reason why I bring this up under the domain of the Democracy Dialogues initiative is not to highlight the plight of one dog or one family (I do know that much worse happens to the world on a daily basis, and one doesn’t need to travel as far as Belfast to find an example). Rather, it is the utter disappointing and irresponsible behavior of the Belfast City Council that I wish to question. The reason I do that is because Belfast is part of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, not some small “third-world” nation where the rule of law has no meaning and public opinion doesn’t see light of day. Now Ireland supposedly has a zero tolerance for the breed, because pit bulls are usually the choice of people who are involved in dog fighting. But it is appalling that in a country and city of seemingly educated, rational, responsible, logical (I can go on with the list here) people who have elected representatives with (again, seemingly) similar qualities, it is disturbing to find that the Council’s representatives could not see that the family in question is a simple household of people with kids with special needs to whom the “dangerous” dog is more than just a pet. To top it all, the animal is question has been deemed to be dangerous not on the basis of how he is and behaves, but rather on the basis of how he “seems to look”.
The larger area that I’m concerned with is the behaviour of the state- in spite of protests reaching as far as New York and places in Asia, with over half a million people on the internet signing a petition for the case to be dealt with responsibly (double the population of Belfast itself), the City Council chose to completely ignore what was happening and continue dealing with things their own way.
Instead of just admitting the stupidity of the law (not my biased opinion; having a law that discriminates between breeds of specie is nothing less than pure racism) and probably using this case as a reason to amend it, the Council acted on just one thing- their ego. The scary thing about such an incident is that if a ‘democratic first world’ country can act in such a way about an issue that didn’t need to become controversial, and that too despite protests worldwide, it is probably a good time to question ourselves how the justice system operates in our own country. I’m not talking just about animals, but about people too; we’ve had tons of cases (I literally mean tons!) in the past where justice has been denied or people have been wrongfully punished for deeds they have not committed. All this while convicted notorious criminals move on the streets freely (or live a life of luxury in prisons) without any fear of law.
- Anuva Hariharan