Note: Please STOP the Karen bashing… I did not write this to gang up on her but to state facts as I saw them and make corrections. ENOUGH… there are many more important and URGENT issues/dogs lives at stake… for instance, the dog in Canada and UK who will be killed in 24 hours and more… we have to STOP BSL NOW. Thank you.
Lennoxgate… outcry for investigation of BCC
pls share, everyone tweet the prime minister @number10gov and ask him to investigate the BCC re: Lennox, be persistent… be factual and professional
if Dispatches receives 1,500 emails or more about Lennox they will look into it .. so here’s the email address email@example.com
Rebuttal to Karen Friesecke of DoggieStylish’s blog post about Lennox …plus some new info that has come to light about this case, a copy of the court document, interviews and more…
here is the link to Karen’s blog post…
First, a rebuttal from Maggie Corchnoy who works as a paralegal in the USA
This is a very biased assessment, masquerading as an objective look at the case. As a paralegal, it is part of my job to read through the briefs submitted by our opponents – this is, in essence, the brief for the BCC. She takes the information she wants to bring forward and ignores that which does not support her case. Look, for instance, at the fact that she accepts Tallack’s status as “expert”. In an American court, it is doubtful that Tallack, lacking sufficient background to prove his expertise, would have been qualified to testify as an expert at all, and would certainly not have been permitted to testify in regards to Lennox’s behavior. In his report he acknowledges that he was not asked to assess Lennox’s temperament or behavior, nevertheless he qratuitiously offers his opinion & does so in a very unprofessional way.
The fact that the trial judge gave more weight to an unqualified person’s opinion than to the assessments of two behaviorists with credentials to back up their opinions would have weighed heavily against the judge with an appellate court in the US – it is highly likely that the decision would have been overturned for abuse of judicial discretion. You cannot substitute, willy-nilly, an unqualified opinion for the opinions of qualified experts.
She takes Alexandra Lightfoot’s testimony at face value, despite what has been brought forward outside of the courtroom that raises grave doubts as to the veracity of her testimony. Lightfoot’s behavior in the videos we’ve seen has consistently shown a person who is quite comfortable with this dog whom she testified under oath that she is afraid of. Her posture is relaxed and she frequently looks like she’s not even paying attention to him. This does not square with her testimony in the least, and certainly raises the possibility of perjury. Her behavior towards the family and online also raises questions as to the character of the woman.
Her discussion of the possibility of an exemption is remarkably off-base, as she ignores the behavioral experts’ assessments that Lennox is a safe dog, while the language she uses makes it sound as if they concur that he could not be safely released. “The judges and people who had ACTUAL CONTACT with Lennox could not be satisfied that he would NOT be a threat to public safety”. Both Fisher and Ryan concluded that Lennox was safe and recommended that he be released back to his family. This is a very old tactic – by avoiding mentioning which “people who had actual contact with Lennox” she makes it sound as if it were the united opinion of all concerned that he was dangerous – while completely ignoring the behavioral experts’ findings and recommendations.
She engages in cherry-picking throughout this opinion piece – and make no mistake about it, this is not an unbiased review of the facts, it is one-sided and anything but an assessment of all the facts in evidence. By starting as she does – presenting posts which easily allow her to tar Lennox’s supporters as emotionally-overwrought and credulous, she makes it easy to dismiss us. Note that she does not present a single post in which facts of the case are discussed, but only those that bolster the image she wants to project. Where, for instance, are there any quotes in the introduction from the website? There isn’t a person who deals in litigation that doesn’t know cherry-picking when we see it. Those are some of the easiest opponents to rebuke in a reply brief because we can take the time to go through & point out each & every little bit of misdirection and half-truth. It’s harder to do in a context like this, unfortunately.
One more note on how she cherry-picks & uses misdirection in an attempt to destroy the credibility of those who have supported the Barnes family & Lennox. Read what she wrote about Victoria Stilwell: “The Victoria Stilwell “noise.” Victoria Stilwell NEVER had contact with the dog and has ZERO education credentials from any recognized institutions as a dog behaviorist. She’s barely a dog trainer. I refuse to take dog training/behavior advice from someone who didn’t own a dog until recently and wrote the book Fat Dog Slim: How to Have a Healthy, Happy Pet”.
Barely a dog trainer? The woman founded a dog-training business, has studied with a number of behavioral experts, has won awards and accolades for her training methods and her personal experience as a trainer. She mentions one of her books, but leaves out the other: It’s Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet. Note how leaving out the first book – a dog-training book – demeans her. Victoria Stilwell has never claimed to have had contact with Lennox. She was asked to assess the evaluation videos & reports of the behaviorists & did so, turning in to the court what amounts to an amicus brief. Her celebrity status has been helpful in bringing attention to the case, which she readily acknowledges, but does not render her opinions any less noteworthy. In fact, I’d venture to suggest, going back to my original post, that while Peter Tallack would most likely not make the grade as a qualified expert, Ms. Stilwell would. So we see bias at work once again – more skillfully applied than some of the other proponents of the BCC have managed, but bias nonetheless.
In addition, regarding the court document…
The decision itself was poorly-written and not supported by the weight of the evidence.
when I’m writing legal documents. I would sink with embarrassment if I turned in a work product as bad as that decision!
Now my rebuttal to Karen...
First, notice that Karen starts off using a quote by Stephen Hawking to bolster her “opinion” as if her opinion is the TRUTH and implies that whatever anyone else’s opinion is or the facts themselves are not true. Tricky way to start off. Anyone who starts off by saying something like that, implying that they and they alone hold the truth and everyone else is ignorant, is flawed from the get go. I trust that Karen has NOT been as intimately involved in this case, has not read the court docs, done a ton of research nor read many different articles, listened to radio and TV interviews, watched videos, all from a variety of sources, as I have done. I could be wrong about that. To me, overall, her piece is a knee jerk reaction. Sorry, Karen.
This clearly is a very volatile issue with lots of people speaking and various opinions on all sides. I am all for people speaking their minds, expressing their opinions and appreciate when people back up their statements with facts. I am as biased as anyone else. My position is I agree to disagree with everyone. And we can still discuss this rationally, if not objectively. When emotions run high, it takes a lot to bite one’s tongue. And I have been known to run off at the mouth, rant and rave and get on my soap box. But I do not masquerade my opinions and try to pass them off as facts. Stick to the facts, ma’am is usually the best way to go. All of us human beings are flawed and biased. Although I am a reporter/editor, I do not subscribe to and was not taught in J school the myth that journalists are objective. Although we may attempt to present a fair and balanced view, our opinions DO color the facts.
For instance, in my last term of college, I did an independent study of a controversial topic of my choice, abortion. My assignment was to research many different newspapers and to see how the topic was presented. Was there bias or objective journalism going on? I found out through many hours of reading newspapers from many different states that overall, at the time, in the early 80’s, for the most part, whenever pro-choice folks were quoted, they were presented as educated college folks and the article appeared on the front page or first page. However, when the pro life crowd were quoted, the article was on a last page and they were shown to be religious fanatics and nut cases. Perhaps this was coincidence but I think not.
I went to college and studied journalism, became a reporter and have worked as a reporter and editor since the 1980’s, my credentials, by the way.
Peter Tallack, the BCC “expert” is a police dog handler who was paid to testify for the BCC so he was NOT an impartial adviser. He had/has a biased agenda, an ax to grind. Do you believe celebrities or others who are paid spokespeople for a product or your best friend or neighbor who has NO financial stake ???
According to the provisions of the Dangerous Dog Act, Tallack does not have the necessary credentials to be an “expert.” He does not have a college degree. He also offers opinions that he was not asked for including saying that Ms. Barnes shouldn’t own a dog because of her disability.
Personally, I condemn violence and threats. Victoria Stilwell, who many around the world hold in HIGH esteem due to her professionalism and qualifications as a dog trainer, a person who knows and understands dog behavior and who has worked with ALL types of dogs including aggressive dogs and pit bulls is definitely a credible person. No one paid her to talk about this. No one paid her to take Lennox to America. All you have to do is watch her work on It’s Me or the Dog and read her books to know that she has integrity and is willing to speak the truth even when she probably should not. She has said that she has received threats by BCC employees and was even sued by Peter Tallack or at least he tried to sue her but he did not actually have a valid case against her.
“I do not approve of threats and intimidation being done to anyone on either side and would appeal to those who conduct themselves in such a way to stop – you are not helping matters. But also be aware that those of us who have supported Lennox and the family themselves have also received threats, some from the very people that BCC employ.”
As a government witness for the Belfast City Council, Tallack tried to extort money from Victoria Stilwell. Peter Tallack was paid by the BCC to condemn Lennox. He also attempted to extort money from The North Country Gazette apparently, threatening to sue and seek an injunction to attempt to stop the news publication from writing about him.
According to Victoria Stilwell’s Facebook page, Tallack tried to extort money from her.
“the BCC’s ‘expert’ did try to sue me for speaking out against him and questioning his credentials, and yes, he did expect money from me to settle the dispute. He was not successful because all I did was speak the truth.”
Apparently, a formal complaint against Tallack has been lodged with law enforcement officials. Read more here:
Karen dismisses the above as rumors. Clearly, they are not rumors.
BCC has a reputation for bullying folks. And now have a campaign against everyone and anyone who is speaking out against what they did to Lennox. Dogs Today Magazine’s advertisers have been targeted and the company was threatened with calls to the police. For what? For speaking up for Lennox. Gee, all these rumors.
Karen also mentioned Cesar Millan as if he somehow had more qualifications than Sarah Fisher and Victoria Stilwell. He is a man and also a dog trainer. Does that make him more qualified? He also offered to rehome Lennox behind the scenes. He did not say publicly (as far as I know) if he was able to discuss options with the BCC or not). However, his methods of dog training have been condemned by some as being too dominating, even abusive (kicking dogs, pushing them down, etc).
Stilwell is a dog trainer and behaviorist and works with pit bull type dogs all of the time. Many dogs she works with are aggressive, fearful, full of anxiety. I have seen her work with people and their dogs including pit bulls on TV numerous times. Her credentials are years of experience working with all kinds of dogs, some who have actually bitten people. Lennox NEVER bit anyone, was muzzled in public and was a family pet. Victoria arranged for Lennox to be rehomed in the USA in a sanctuary (she does not say which one but presumably Best Friends where the former Vick dogs live. I can say this as having worked there and knowing that this is something that they would do).
Even if Lennox was a dangerous dog there would have been NO danger to the public as Victoria had the transportation all arranged and the people at the sanctuary have years of working with difficult even so-called dangerous dogs and know how to do so safely.
Lennox had offers of sanctuary from some of the best-known dog advocates in the world, Cesar Millan, Victoria Stilwell, Jeff Coltenback, who has a pit bull rescue in New Jersey and has 20 years experience rescuing dogs and working with dogs including pit bulls. Lennox would NOT have been in a public setting and therefore he would not have been a threat to society as Tallack, Lightfoot and the BCC claimed. Victoria and Jeff never received a reply from the BCC although they both made many phone calls and sent numerous requests.
Employees of the BCC received a memo issued in December, 2010 by an official of the BCC’s Health and Environmental Services Department which told members of the BCC not to discuss the Lennox case at any council meetings.
For the most part, the media in the United Kingdom also did not print articles about Lennox for the two years before Lennox’s death.
Government officials in Northern Ireland and the BCC knew of the situation as they received many many requests for clemency, phone calls and emails and obviously did nothing to stop the execution of an innocent dog.
With the exception of First Minister Peter Robinson who publicly said he did not agree with the court decision to kill Lennox, no government official has publicly addressed the worldwide outcry to save Lennox and requests for mercy from even the Italian government who also offered to rehome Lennox. There also has been no response to requests for an investigation into the BCC.
James Crosby, an expert witness in the US in several State Courts and one Federal District Court on dog aggression, canine behavior, dog assessment and dog attacks has 30 years experience working with truly dangerous dogs, 30 who have actually killed people. His comments:
“Whenever I evaluate an allegedly truly dangerous dog, I wear protective gear (kevlar gloves, etc.). If Lennox was so bad, where was the AC Officer’s protective gear? I used to make my AC Officers wear gloves at least when catching strays….Jim Crosby
for the rest of his comments, read his post (link below) and listen to his interviews (see below)
“Even though the dog wardens claimed Lennox was dangerous, they never muzzled the dog in any of photographs and videos for assessment and evaluation”. More unanswered questions and evidence at the link below.
If the BCC have nothing to hide, then why wouldn’t they let anyone, including the family, see Lennox before and after his death? why did they not allow the Barnes family a last visit (which they certainly had the authority to do). Once he was dead, Sarah Fisher stated that she offered to take the dead body to the family so that they could bury him but the BCC refused. WHY? What possible danger would he have been to anyone once he was dead? Why have they refused to send the family his body and/or his collar as a keepsake for the young girl??? And why have they refused to COMMUNICATE with anyone in the public responsibly???
Lightfoot’s promotion to Animal Welfare Officer
Perjury of Lightfoot
Lets not forget this dog warden shown in the pictures above gave evidence in court under oath stating that Lennox is aggressive, uncontrollable and she is afraid of him. The pictures raise the obvious questions, does this dog warden look at all afraid of Lennox? Does this dog warden look to be afraid of being in the same vicinity as Lennox? Does this dog warden look like she cannot control Lennox? Does Lennox show any signs of aggression toward this dog warden? Everyone can see that Lennox is willing to please and show love toward this warden and for this same warden to stand in court and claim under oath that she is afraid of Lennox is a disgrace to the dog warden service, the Belfast City Council for employing such an untrustworthy person and to the warden herself. The warden can clearly be seen in the picture placing her face up close to Lennox’s face which is not something a normal person would do if they claim they are afraid of a certain dog or claim it is aggressive and they cannot enter the same vicinity as such dog.
The BCC has either ignored phone calls or on the morning of Lennox’s death, they made rude animal noises to people calling and asking if the dog was still alive and hung up on them. And they even lied to at least one person’s face. A woman who was truly concerned and wanting to find out about the fate of the dog called the BCC for info. Two hours AFTER the BCC had released their statement (the woman did not know about this until later), the BCC assured this woman that Lennox was still alive.
What truly disturbs me is the horrible condition Lennox was in when Sarah Fisher met with him. He had NOT been in such terrible shape before when Lennox was with his family. Hair loss, sores on his body,a hurt neck and damaged paw. Were they taking proper care of him as they stated (see below)?
Here are court documents from the case
Some notes/excerpts about the court document…
In several instances they call Alexandra/Sandie Lightfoot… by the names Ms. Whitefoot and Ms. Lightwood… if they cannot get the names correct, what else is incorrect in this court document? (I used to be a legal secretary and typos are not allowed never mind incorrect names)…at least in the USA this docment would not be acceptable… and inadmissible and certainly not considered a professional court doc.
The dog had a problem with stress and Ms. Barnes admitted that he was bad with strangers but had never bit anyone. She never let the dog near strangers, adults and children. She was willing to comply with muzzling, had insurance. The dog was registered as an American bulldog/Labrador on his license. (see photocopy below).
Tallack was supposed to measure the dog, that is it. He had no expertise regarding dog behavior. But he said that the dog had a severe personality defect. He is not a dog psych nor a vet. He criticized Sarah Fisher’s methods. He thought that a dog biting a lead/leash as Lennox had was a bad sign (poppycock) and decided that Lennox was an accident waiting to happen… a mature dog fixed in its ways. (The former Vick dogs refute this nonsense completely)…
Sarah Fisher has not had experience with pit bull type dogs in the UK but HAS had experience with these dogs in the USA where they are NOT illegal. Fisher’s assessment started with Lennox being in a van. He was distressed and wanted to stay with Ms. Whitefoot who he clearly had a good relationship with. She clarified her methods, she used a clicker to see if that would upset the dog, introduced and withheld food/treats and tested the dog’s reactions to see if Lennox would react aggressively and he did not. She dropped the lead a couple of times, people walked by and Lennox did NOT attack anyone.
She mentioned his health issues and recommended that he visit a vet surgeon. She said that if the dog was in pain that could make him difficult to handle. (Was any of this ever addressed by the BCC?)
Fisher then discussed David Ryan’s assessment… the court doc calls him Ramsey instead of Ryan a few times. (again, if they cannot get the names correct in a court document, this is indicative of other errors)…
Ryan noted that the dog could be muzzled and kept in the home of Ms. Barnes. Being in a kennel would be too traumatic for Lennox. More so than other dogs, he said. (Was this ever addressed by the BCC?)
Fisher noted that Lennox could have bit Ryan but did not do so. She concluded that Lennox was a well behaved dog.
There are opinions taken as facts by the court… I was impressed by the evidence of the dog warden… that is the dog’s warden’s opinions were considered facts. It seems according to the court/Judge that the opinions of the dog wardens and paid expert were viable but the real dog experts reports were dismissed.
it goes on talking about the factual evidence of Mr. Tallack which was NOT backed up by any factual evidence, we would call it hearsay.
Mr. Ryan recommended that Lennox go home with the Barnes family.
But then the court says that all of the experts said that Lennox was dangerous. Clearly, this is contradictory and NOT true. Fisher and Ryan said that Lennox should GO HOME.
Then it talks about public safety.
And how the court could not justify allowing Lennox to be in public and be safe according to the experts testimonies. (again ONLY the BCC’s testimony and opinion of the dog warden and Tallack were considered).
and the Judge dismisses the appeal.
Why was the same judge allowed to sit on the bench for appeal? He should have recused himself.
The court decisions in the Lennox case were all based upon opinions of the BCC. The decision whether or not he was “dangerous” was not based on facts—it was totally personal and subjective NOT objective.
Both the trial court and appellate court ignored the most important assessment reports from highly qualified dog trainers and behaviorists. David Ryan is listed on the UK’s Registry of Expert Witnesses, certificated as a clinical animal behaviorist by the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior, recognized by both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Psychological Society and is a highly qualified, independent and impartial expert.
But the court instead took the word of Tallack, a paid witness not an impartial outsider, someone who is known to have a strong dislike of pit bulls, and a person unqualified to give expert testimony.
The government’s response to a Freedom of Information request submitted to the BCC in November 2010 by a family member seeking “the actual conditions in which Lennox is being kept and a full description of the care that the dog is receiving, i.e. human contact, daylight, exercise, stimulation, feeding”, clearly debunks the government’s claim that Lennox was erratic and unsafe and that the staff was scared of him.
JV Corkey, Environmental Health Manager, wrote “Lennox is currently housed in a DARD approved kenneling facility. His pen is cleaned out on a daily basis. He is fit and health and receives daily exercise. He has a lot of interaction with the staff of the facility, has plenty of toys, has blankets for bedding and his pen is adequately heated. He was recently examined by a vet who said that he appeared to be well cared for and settled.”
The First Minister of Northern Ireland saw no reason why Lennox could not be rehomed. Since I do not know how their system works, I don’t know who had the authority to allow Lennox to be rehomed to the USA. But I do know that exceptions and exemptions are allowed in the USA and could have been found IF the government officials wanted to do so. We were told that the Queen could have offered clemency and that other officials including the BCC officials could have given Lennox a second chance, to be rehomed in the USA, despite their insistence that their hands were tied and that they had to abide by the court’s decision.
The BCC fought for their right to destroy the dog no matter what. They seemed determined to destroy him. For whatever reasons, I do not know. But from all of the work that I personally did learning about the system, talking to people in the UK and Northern Ireland, the BCC could have allowed Lennox to be rehomed IF THEY HAD WANTED TO DO SO.
Interview with BCC “expert”, Victoria Stilwell, Sarah Fisher and James Crosby
James Crosby on BSL