An open letter to the Belfast City Council and the people of Belfast

Family pet, Lennox, is dead.  He was executed this morning because he might possibly have had pit bull blood in him. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world begged for his life; people of good will offered their homes as alternatives to death and they were rebuffed.  Why?  Because a group of ignorant, small-minded individuals decided that a dog with no record of aggression was dangerous.  He looked like a pit bull, he must have been dangerous right?

There is no such thing as a dangerous breed, only dangerous people.  Dangerously ignorant people.

I’m not old enough to remember a time when it was common to see signs that read: “No dogs, no Irish” but I am old enough to remember segregation in my own country, and I take these lessons to heart because they speak to the human tendency to make flawed judgments based on stereotypes.  The stereotypical Irish man/woman still exists today in cartoons, and in phrases which are spoken out of ignorance: “Shanty Irish,” “Lace-curtain Irish,” in descriptors such as “lazy” or “drunken.”   Was there anything just about these stereotypes?  To my way of thinking, the Irish are no better or worse than any other people on earth.

But this is different, you say, this is about public safety.

No it’s not.  It’s about willful ignorance and scape-goating .  It’s about people who refuse to look past their own ill-informed prejudices, who don’t want to be bothered actually thinking about a situation — my God, they had two years to educate themselves and they spent those years clinging to a stereotype of pit bulls.  There is no excuse for willful ignorance.  None.

Here in the U. S., the phrase “zero tolerance” is thrown about a lot.  I hate it because it’s the same damn thing: stupidity and laziness tarted up as some kind of high-minded principle.  It’s led to children being suspended from school for taking aspirin. (“Zero tolerance for drugs!”) and arrested for doodling on their desk with erasable marker. (“The rules are the rules!”)  What “zero tolerance” actually means is “We don’t want to be bothered making decisions, so we’ll just create this rule and enforce it without thought or common sense.”  It’s bad enough when 97 year old women are put in handcuffs and dragged to jail for failing to pay a parking ticket, but when it costs a life, even the life of a dog, it’s a sin and a shame.

People of Belfast, your City Council has shamed you in the eyes of the world.  From this point on, your city will be known as the place where an innocent family pet can be executed for no more reason than his bloodline.  Pet owners will point to Belfast as a kind of Doggie Dachau, and those of us who believe in common sense, common decency and mercy will think of Belfast as a place where none of those things are valued.  Yes, I do know better; I know that there are many decent people in Belfast who disagree violently with the council’s decision.  But Lennox’s murder proves the enduring quality of negative ideas.

So let me say this: Get rid of your council.  Get them out of office as quickly as you can, and replace them with people who  actually think.  If you can remove that judge from his seat, do it.  End breed-specific legislation as soon as you can. Do not let this kind of mindless authoritarianism become the symbol of your city and the people in it. Above all, don’t let these fools take more lives.

English: Candle wick burning. Français : Gros ...

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9 thoughts on “An open letter to the Belfast City Council and the people of Belfast

  1. Thank you for writing this. I’m one of the people who was fighting so hard to save Lennox. I have emailed and called and cried and now my heart is broken. Lennox is the victim of the worst kind of intolerance and I pray the world sees the BCC for this horrible act and takes the right action.

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    • Rhonda, thank you for your work. I can’t even imagine the sort of people who could do to a family what the BCC have done to Lennox and his family. It’s a stain on Belfast and her people to be represented by those intolerant fools. I think there are those who would say: “It’s just a dog!” but even if I agreed with the sentiment (I do not and never will.) the issues are far bigger than that. I really wanted to get all those ideas across.

      Please feel free to share the post around if you like. I think people need to understand what’s going on.

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  2. Thank you for saying what most of us are now thinking and trying to say, but don’t have the eloquence that you have displayed. I hope the people of Belfast respond and remove these ignorant people from office and the bench–before they themselves are standing before them, pleading a hopeless cause. Thank you!

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    • Thanks, Janice. If I help at all, I’ll be gratified. Keep fighting the good fight and speaking out for those who have no voice.

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  3. Thank you for such a touching response to Lennox. He was put down for nothing and it is sad to see such racist ignorant people still exist on power in the world. I guess that is being a bit rose colored about it since there are many other places of power I am sure you can see this. It was scary reading about Lennox because it made me want to stay away from a country I have always wanted to visit. I have been studying American History and this whole story felt like day-sha-voo to be honest. Except with a dog. The rights of the family and dog were infringed on and not only that but they could have made everyone happy and sent the poor dog to another family where they are allowed. How did Ireland ever make it out of the stone ages when they seem to have a leader group that acts like savages.

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    • I suspect that many Belfast citizens hate what was done to Lennox. Here in the US we know what it is to have elected officials overstep, and do things which their constituents abhor. Let’s hope the city makes the people who did this pay.

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  4. Hi Tracy,

    A beautifully written chronicle of human stupidity.

    Alas, I must report it exists everywhere and in every guise.

    My wife and I started a USA charity to combat ignorance regarding FIV cats (http://www.squidoo.com/fiv-cat-rescue) whereby 10s of thousands of perfectly healthy cats are routinely murdered each year across this blighted nation solely because 1 flawed test says they have antibodies to a virus (not the virus itself, mind you) that MIGHT make them sick in 10 years!

    The lack of logic there boggles the mind. This misinformation is routinely given out by veterinarians and animal shelters … to their eternal shame.

    To tie this in with your story, one of our closest allies is the local Daisy Davis Pit Bull Rescue, which fights the wildly wide-spread prejudice against pit bulls.

    While cats and dogs have never been the closest of allies, organizations opposing the slaughter of each can and must be.

    The only creatures who should be subject to such politically motivated euthenasia are the petty bureaucrats who make and enforce such abominable laws.

    Rant over. Soapbox returned for deposit. Other viewpoints welcome.

    Best wishes to all who fight the good fight, for those who can’t,
    Oran Kangas

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