A BELFAST woman failed yesterday in a final attempt to spare the life of her pit bull terrier-type dog.
Northern Ireland’s most senior judges rejected Caroline Barnes’ legal bid to overturn an order for the destruction of her pet, Lennox.
The seven-year-old animal, which was seized by city council officials in May 2010, has been on death row for more than a year.
Two lower courts have already ruled that it should be put down because it poses a risk to the public under dangerous dogs legislation.
Ms Barnes, 35, had accepted her pet was a pit bull-type but claimed there had been a failure to properly consider a possible exemption scheme.
Her legal team appeared before the Court of Appeal seeking to compel the County Court judge who confirmed the destruction order to state a case on points of law.
They argued that the animal has never bitten anyone and has behaved impeccably since being impounded.
According to Ms Barnes’ lawyers, the dog has not been given the chance to show it can be made safe.
The decision that Lennox should be put down came after amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act were extended to Northern Ireland in 2011.
The new legislation introduced a discretionary element to automatic destruction for pit bull-types, based on whether the animal is deemed a danger to the public.
A major campaign has been waged to save Lennox, including an online petition which has attracted huge support.
But with Ms Barnes not in attendance yesterday, the Court of Appeal verdict appeared to spell the end.
Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and Lord Justice Higgins, set out how dog wardens who tried to examine and measure Lennox in May 2010 were told by a man it would “rip their head off”.
An expert dog handler retained by the city council concluded that the dog had a severe personality defect.
He considered that it had a problem with strangers and said it was impossible to determine when the dog would be under stress.
Conflicting evidence was given by Ms Barnes’ expert, who described Lennox as well-handled and a wonderful family dog.
Lord Justice Girvan rejected arguments that the County Court judge failed to properly consider provisions in the 2011 Act when concluding that local authorities in Northern Ireland have no facilities to issue exemption certificates.
“He found as a fact, as he was fully entitled to do on the evidence, that the dog could not be rendered safe by the imposition of a scheme of conditions designed to render it safe,” Lord Justice Girvan said.
“The judge had heard evidence on the issues relating to this dog over a protracted two-day hearing, carefully considered the evidence and the issues and he reached conclusions of fact which have not been vitiated by any error of law on his part.”
Backing the earlier decision, he added: “Accordingly we must dismiss the application to compel the judge to state a case.”