Dog Warden 'Hate Campaign' Condemned

Belfast dog wardens have been subjected to "a relentless campaign of intimidation and abuse," Belfast City Council has revealed.

The campaign of intimidation was connected with a court case in which a pitbull terrier-type dog was ordered to be destroyed.

Several members of staff have had threatening letters, one drenched in petrol, put through their letterboxes, while another staff member had her car tyres slashed outside her home.

Belfast District Judge Ken Nixon ruled that the animal, Lennox, should be put down after hearing it posed a danger to the public if let out without a muzzle.

Its owner, Caroline Barnes, 34, was given a conditional discharge for keeping a dangerous dog and is set to appeal the ruling to destroy her pet.

According to Belfast City Council Lennox was seized by council dog wardens last May because they believed he was a pitbull terrier type and dangerous and an independent Ms Barnes said in court that her dog had never bitten anyone, though she accepted that in certain circumstances he could be aggressive but a major campaign, which included an online petition, was mounted on the dog's behalf.

However, Belfast Council said some campaigners had embarked on an online hate campaign against individual members of staff.

The Council issued a statement which read: "This kind of intimidation against our staff is to be utterly condemned and it is totally unacceptable that officers, who are enforcing the law as they are required to do, should be subjected to such a sustained and threatening campaign.
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"The Council itself would like to see changes to the current legislation on dog control, including greater clarity on the definition of a dangerous dog. However until any such changes are introduced by Government, Belfast City Council has a statutory obligation to enforce the current legislation in full, and in doing so is committed to protecting the health and safety of the public."

East Belfast DUP Assembly candidate, Robin Newton, said the attacks on the homes and property of Belfast City Council dog wardens must be condemned.

The former Stormont Junior Minister commented: "I speak as someone who is an animal lover and would not want any animal harmed and especially one regarded as a family pet.

"No more family pets should endure being locked away for months and no more owners should be put through the anguish of having their pet destroyed based only on its looks rather than its record. The dog wardens operate under Dangerous Dogs Order 1991 and if the legalisation is confusing it is not the fault of the wardens. The courts make their decision in line with the law.

"Damaging the property of wardens, putting petrol through their front door and an orchestrated online hate campaign will not take animal welfare forward by one step. It is very important that the legislation is reconsidered and clarified."

A further hearing is due to take place next week to decide costs and to timetable any appeal.

The revelation of this hate campaign against dog wardens comes a day after the owner of an 18-month-old Japanese Akita dog which attacked a dog warden was fined £500 at the Magistrates Court in Londonderry.

The warden, Malachy Duddy, required 28 stitches after the dog, Reuben, bit his left foot and leg, as well as his left forearm.

Reuben was destroyed after the attack which occurred when Mr Duddy called at Ms Corr's home after a request from her to take the dog away.


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