Friday, 15 June 2012

Fictional dog of the week #20: Lennox the Pit Bull Type

Lennox is a real dog, but Lennox the Pit Bull Type is a work of fiction that threatens to end his life.

Lennox is in fact an American Bulldog/Labrador crossbreed, but because he looks quite bully he’s about to be put to death as a ‘Pit Bull Type’ dog.

Even if you’re not familiar with the Save Lennox campaign, you’ll probably have heard or seen something about it. It’s been rumbling on for over two years, since Lennox was taken from his family home by Belfast City Council dog wardens even though he hadn’t done anything wrong and nobody had complained about him. And on 12 June this year, the Northern Ireland Chief Justice ruled that Lennox should be destroyed.

The story began on 19 May 2010. According to the Save Lennox campaign website:
“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.”

Lennox's family tell how Belfast City Council issued them with a warrant of seizure which was incorrectly addressed and was for another location. The council also used the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) Incorporated standards without authorisation to identify Lennox as a possible Pit Bull type – resulting in ‘cease and desist’ orders from the ADBA which have also been ignored.

For more than two years, Lennox has languished in council kennels where he’s become overweight and photos of him have raised serious, widespread concern about his welfare. Despite being assessed and found not to be a risk by a number of behaviourists, Lennox has continued to be treated as a ‘dangerous’ dog. His owners – who also foster dogs for various dog shelters in Northern Ireland – have been refused any contact with him and haven’t even been told where he is being kept.

The campaign to Save Lennox has attracted support from MPs, the media, vets, animal behaviourists and welfare organisations, and for a while it looked possible that he would be allowed to go home.

Now, as Lennox sits under a death sentence, it’s more important than ever to support the campaign to save him. His owners are in talks with their legal team, and it’s important to keep the pressure up in the hope that this ghastly decision can be overturned.

The Save Lennox campaign continues. Please visit the website which lists a number of ways you can help, and if you haven’t yet signed the petition, please take a few moments to do it now. You can also add your voice to the Save Lennox Facebook page and to the growing number of supporters on Twitter using the #SaveLennox hashtag. Your contribution could help make the difference.  

It looks a grim picture at the moment, but as the stories tell us it's often darkest before the dawn. If we keep up the pressure, perhaps we can put an end to the fictional Lennox and ensure a happy ending for the real one, a crossbreed who has been treated atrociously and deserves to go home to his loving family.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Fictional dog of the week #19: Roobarb

Oh Roobarb, how I love your wobbly green doggyness! Roobarb and Custard are currently helping the PDSA to raise £1 million, so it seems fitting to make this wobbly green cartoon dog this week’s fictional dog of the week.

Together with his friend Custard the pink cat, Roobarb entertained a generation of children with his animated antics during the 1970s – and the pair returned a few years ago to entertain today’s youngsters.

It’s a traditional odd-ball, dog-and-cat partnership which sees the enthusiastic Roobarb making grand plans that fall apart while the lazy Custard, who lives nextdoor and has somewhat criminal tendencies, lies on the fence and makes mischief. Richard Briers - who should probably be the voice of all dogs - narrated the series and voiced all the characters, and the drawings were all done with magic markers, giving a curious, wobbly effect that I think is particularly suited to that type of dog who can’t keep still.

Although the original 1973-4 series was originally titled Roobarb, the partnership was so strong that it was universally known as Roobarb and Custard. The pair never really went out of fashion, and 30 years after the first episode, a second series was made: Roobarb and Custard Too. The rest, as they say, is history.

And Roobarb is a history-making dog. Devised by Grange Calveley who worked for an advertising agency at the time, he is based on the real-life Calveley dog, a Welsh Border Collie who was also called Roobarb and who really did climb trees. Inspired by his canine friend, Calveley pestered the BBC until they agreed to commission a series of 30, five-minute episodes – the first animated TV series ever to be made in the UK!

Roobarb is so popular today that he and Custard have a brilliant website of their own, where you can find out all about them and link to some of the later episodes.

Here’s a link to an early episode of Roobarb, and here’s an episode of Roobarb and Custard Too.