Here we go again. Have we learned nothing from the death of Lennox, the tragic eradication of a once healthy, thriving dog in Northern Ireland? I cringe when I think about the mindset of the Belfast City Council, the powers who extinguished a light as bright as Lennox in the name of ignorance and hate. And here we go again.
This is what we know: On a recent afternoon, one of Mary O’Brien’s children accidentally pressed a button on the remote garage door opener at their home in Brighton, Colorado. O’Brien’s cousin was babysitting at the time and did not realize what had taken place. Dre and Machomotto, the family’s dogs, ran outside through the open garage door.
Dre began barking at people, and one person jumped into her car (apparently in fear). A few folks called animal control, with one call placed to 911 to report “vicious dogs running loose.” Five officers were reported to have secured Dre, but in the process no one was injured, bitten, or scratched. Repeat: Five strangers, chasing a confused dog who is barking. If my dog ever bolted, he’d be dazed, confused, and none too happy to have five men in uniform chasing him in a haphazard situation.
Dre was held at a shelter in Brighton, where there is no breed-specific legislation in place, like there is in Belfast. (Lennox was put down because he resembles a Pit Bull.) When O’Brien went to retrieve her dogs from the pound, she was allowed to take Machomotto but not Dre. He was quarantined and labeled "vicious" with the recommendation that the dog be destroyed. Dre is a Pit Bull.
An officer reported that Dre acted aggressively by chasing people and barking at them. He never bit anyone; he ran around and he barked at people. It sounds like the dog park on weekends in my area.
A hearing was held on Tuesday, July 31, leaving the family very little time to persuade a judge that Dre is not vicious. In Brighton, a dog running at large is unlawful, but Pit Bulls are legal. Generally, a fine is imposed for loose dogs. Animal control can, however, choose to destroy "any vicious dog when deemed necessary in the interest of public safety by an animal control officer under circumstances where a significant and immediate threat to the health or safety of a person or other animal exists."
Dre has been labeled. The hearing came and went, and the dog remains in animal control’s custody. Dre’s family has been allowed to visit him in the shelter, where he wagged his tail, licked their hands, and was allowed to eat treats through the cage. A sign stating “Dangerous Dog Will Bite” was placed on his kennel and remains there. The next hearing is Aug. 10, and the family has a lawyer from The Animal Law Center working on their behalf. Dre remains alone, torn from his family.
I can’t take it anymore. I’m angry, I’m disgusted, I’ve donated, and I wanted to write about this. Dre is not alone, but in the purest form of the word, he is. Every day, dogs are being mislabeled, put in cages, and unjustly eradicated.
Dre sits in a kennel, locked in a tiny area. Dre is a family member who requires a special diet and allergy medication that his family brings to the shelter. He’s stressed and confused. I would be, too, or probably gnawing at myself in the same situation. He gets little interaction, and now he waits. We all do. But there must be something more we can do, as people, to stop this insanity from repeating itself, right?
“I’m appalled at all the stories I read online about dogs being put down because they’re one breed or another,” BlogPaws cofounder Yvonne DiVita says. "With Pit Bulls taking the brunt of this focus, the pet parents to these warm, funny, and delightful dogs have an extra job on their hands making sure they protect their furkid. I wonder when we’ll get over this -– as we got over worrying about German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers. Can it be today?”
These are the thoughts that run through my head as I sit here with my Cocker Spaniel snuggled by my feet. Oddly, many years ago, Pit Bulls carried a different label: that of “Nanny Dog.” Need a dog to keep your children safe? Why, the Nanny Dog fits that bill, doesn’t it? So how did the Pit Bull become so feared and the target of such discrimination? A huge part of me blames Michael Vick and the nightmares inflicted on those dogs. Part of me blames evil people in general: the dogfighters of the world who force innocent animals to tear into each other in the name of greed.
So Dre waits to see what fate has in store for him. As of this writing, O’Brien has been advised by her attorney not to say anything else. We all want to help the innocent here, and whatever is needed to bring Dre home safely (and quickly) is what I advocate. All questions and comments should be directed to the Animal Law Center, per the family's request.
All I can think about is what would my dog do if he got out. He would run and bark at people if they tried to capture him. For that matter, when we are at a park if a stranger gets too close he will bark, not because he will bite, but because he is scared. My heart is breaking for Dre and I am so angry that we as people have created this fear of this breed! Let's not forget it was HUMANS that made them so vicious to begin with, but do they not get a second chance? Did we not see so many of this beautiful dogs be able to be rehabilitated? When does this discrimination stop? I urge all of you to do what you can to start to change this perception of Pit Bulls, as Dogster said, we did it for German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers.Lennox’s legacy must be to never let this happen again. Knowledge is power. And Dre could use a lot of that now. As I learn more, I'll report whatever I can. Meanwhile, you can follow along with Dre's Facebook page.