TALLACK Radio Interview : Nando Brown Show

The following is a transcript from the ‘Lennox Special’ Nando Brown Radio Show broadcast on 14 July 2012.

It’s a slightly abridged version (omitting repetitive words and unrelated presenter comments re: contact details, etc), but it does include interviews with Sarah Fisher, Peter Tallack, Victoria Stilwell, an Anonymous Caller (well, not to us!) and Jim Crosby.

The short version containing only Tallack’s transcribed interview can be found here [ link ]. Listeners can find his appearance at roughly 25 minutes into the recording [ link ].

Tallack waffles in his radio interviews, not because he’s nervous – far from it – but because he’s afflicted with the same condition as most other liars, the struggle to keep stories watertight in a live situation.

As you’ll see here he constantly goes off on a tangent in the hope the interviewer might forget the question and let him off the hook. However, in this particular interview, Tallack shoots himself in the foot with some more outrageous and blatant lies.

Nando Brown Radio Show 14 July 2012

Nando:

Good morning everybody this is Nando Brown, you’re listening to In The Dog House on iTalk FM.

So I know that when I say good morning everybody I’ve got a lot of people to say hello to this morning. Why have we got so many people listening in today? This is going to be the Lennox Special. If you don’t know who Lennox is we are going to give you a little bit of a brief introduction in just a moment, but let me say Hello to Donna Saunders who’s joined me in the studio this morning.

Donna Saunders:

Hello everyone.

Nando:

So this, as I say, is going to be a Lennox Special. For those of you who don’t know who Lennox is – on the 19th May in 2010 there was a five year old suspected pit bull type dog that was siezed by Belfast City Council. On Wednesday the 11th July 2012 he was destroyed due a law called Breed Specific Legislation. Now if you hear anybody mention BSL during the show then that’s what it stands for – it’s Breed Specific Legislation, and this law basically means that if a dog measures up to a certain look then they will be killed.

It’s got nothing to do with their temperament, it’s got nothing to do with the way that they behave, it’s purely how they look.

Now if we were talking about humans this would be called racism, and in today’s age we are well on our way to stamping racisim out. However it’s rife in the dog world. Don, a massive, massive show today isnt it?

Donna Saunders:

Absolutely and for those of our regular listeners it might be a little more serious then our usual bantery type show. So you know this is a big topic for everyone

Nando:

Donna why don’t you give out the number?

Donna Saunders:

Yes, so guys we want you ringing in today, we’ve got a lot of really good guests on you know that are related to this case. So get ringing, the number is 951 043843 and if you’re ringing from outside of Spain thats 0034 in front of it.

Nando:

Ok, and if you would like to text in then you can send me a text message on 951 140 223, and throughout the show I’ll periodically be checking my email, and that’s nando@italkfm.com. You can also get in touch with us via Skype, just add iTtalk FM, we’ll accept you and can either call or you can leave us a message on there. And finally we’ll be checking Facebook as well, so you can have a look for my page, In The Dog House DTC, if you search that or just put in http://www.facebook.com/ITDHDTC, find that page add us and then add your comment up on there and we will be sure to make your points heard as well.

Now this is a very serious show ok? Lennox is a massive case and we need you to get involved. If you’re not going to get involved then don’t whinge about the questions. This is the opportunity to have your say.

Donna Saunders:

And for both sides as well because I know this has been very very close to many people’s hearts and we’re trying to find the truth out here, you know we haven’t heard a lot from the Council, not really.

Nando:

No, nothing at all no.

Donna Saunders:

So you know we’re trying to get some of the truth here.

Nando:

We do have some fantastic guests coming on a little bit later on to do with the Lennox case. First of all we are going to be talking to Sarah Fisher. Now she was one of the expert witnesses who said that it was an absolute pleasure to handle Lennox, and then after that we are going to be talking to Peter Tallack. Peter is a prosecution witness, and he said that Lennox is a liability. We are going to be talking to him a little bit later on in the show. After that we will be talking to Victoria Stilwell; she’ll be giving us her opinions on the case and the way that she offered the Belfast City Council a way out.

Donna Saunders:

Yes, that sanctuary

Nando:

And finally we’ll be talking to Jim Crosby. Jim is an assessor of dogs that actually killed people and he deals with this kind of thing quite often.

Donna Saunders:

And he’s highly qualified.

Nando:

He’s very highly qualified so we will be talking to him at the end of the show, which I’m really looking forward to. Some fantastic guests and, as I say, your opportunity to get in touch. What I’m going to do is… from the UK I have Sarah Fisher, good morning Sarah how are you?

[ 0:07:04 ]

Sarah Fisher:

Good morning, I’m good thank you.

Nando:

Thank you for taking the time to join us today, I know you’ve been very busy lately and I know you are going to be very busy today. Can you tell us a little bit about your involvement with the Lennox case?

Sarah Fisher:

Yes, I went over to do an assessment for the appeal and I spent about 45 minutes with the dog and I actually found him to be incredibly charming, and he had obviously been around a family, obviously well trained, and I didn’t see any issue around the dog at all.

Donna:

Sarah, it’s Donna from the Dog House here, hi.

Sarah Fisher:

Hi.

Donna:

I just wondered how long after Lennox was seized was your assessment done?

Sarah Fisher:

Eighteen months afterwards, but the evidence that was presented to say that he was difficult was based on the moment of seizure and when he was measured a week or so after he was seized as well. That’s why…

Donna:

And was that Peter’s evidence?

Sarah Fisher:

… that’s why I wanted to go back and assess the dog because we have to get a more up to date, accurate assessment, and you can’t assess a dog truly when it’s under such duress. It’s not fair.

Donna:

Ok yeah

Nando:

Now if you put a dog… if you are going to seize a dog, that’s going to put a dog under pressure isn’t it. So it’s going to act defensively.

Sarah Fisher:

Absolutely.

Nando:

Now would you say that that would correspond with what Peter Tallack was saying with regards to what he saw of the dog.

Sarah Fisher:

I had the other day in the workshop a wonderful well-mannered family dog, great dog, with a few little things going on through the body and the owner wanted me to try and put a body wrap on the dog, and the dog freaked out because it was something new and novel to that dog, and that dog was with his owners in a known environment and he was still worried about something new being put on his body.

That dog is not a dangerous dog, and I am sure that Lennox was anxious when he was seized – I know he was anxious when he was seized. I understand that he may well have been difficult but a frightened animal can be very intimidating, and if you progress with doing things that you might have to do in a veterinary capacity or something, it’s obviously going to add to that distress.

But you can’t take that as a mark of the dog’s general temperament, because the situation that dog is in, in those moments, will never be repeated in everyday life.

Nando:

Ok so it’s a very interesting point that you say there, that fear can be… a dog that’s scared can be very intimidating. Now I deal with aggression cases out here in Spain, and I find personally that the majority of cases that I see, aggression cases that I see, are certainly based in fear.

Sarah Fisher:

Absolutely, so do I. This is exactly what I work with the majority of the time.

Nando:

Ok so now… I had a look at one of your… you published an article on your web site, a statement about the Lennox case and in that you say that you were told that he had bitten the last person that came to see him?

Sarah Fisher:

Yes I was.

Nando:

But in court there was different story made.

Sarah Fisher:

Yes.

Nando:

What… do you know why, or why do think that was the case?

Sarah Fisher:

I can’t obviously speak for the people that told me this, but when I assess a dog for a court case, if it’s a seized dog, I don’t want to know anything about that dog from the owners. I want to be able to go and read a dog, to be able to isolate problems it may have in the body that may be contributing to the behaviour. I want to really get a true accurate reading to the best of my abilities based on what I know about dog’s behaviour, the link between posture and behaviour; I don’t want my head filled with anything, and when I turned up to do the assessment I was told “This is the most aggressive dog we’ve ever seen, it’s the most dangerous dog we’ve ever seen”. “He attacked the last assessor and he bit the last person standing where you’ll be standing”.

That’s all I knew about Lennox, other than of course that he had been seized because he was of pit bull type. When we opened the van doors he did bark three times and he was shaking like a leaf, he was absolutely terrified. So I spent some time just doing a bit of work with him in his crate, in a very confined situation, so again you can’t read a dog’s true temperament while it’s in a kennel or in a crate, because you’ve got anxiety and you know they’re trapped.

I then took this dog out and I was told I was the only one that could handle this dog nobody would touch him, and I spent 45 minutes with him. I would never have done that if I believed that I was going to be in any danger.

We had lots of people in the car park. It was the car park where members of staff were coming and going, there were people filming my assessment, my assistant was filming my assessment. There were other members from the dog warden team there, and I did drop the lead once, getting a bit of carpal tunnel in my left hand. And also he does chew on the lead and he was at liberty twice and no one ran for cover.

When we got to court, under oath the dog warden said “actually the dog’s not bitten anyone, so I can’t tell you why they said this to me at the beginning of my assessment, but they did say that, and that’s all I knew about this dog.

Donna:

So Sarah, based on that, where you uncovered a truth almost yourself, where do you feel that the untruths in this case actually lie?

Sarah Fisher:

Oh I don’t know, I mean my experience of Lennox was a very positive one. Also when, once I’ve assessed a dog then I go and see the family and talk to them about the dog, just to see if anything comes up that I obviously need to be aware of, and I will read letters from other people and talk to extended family members as well, and everything that I found about Lennox was exactly what the family said to me, that he was really gentle, that he would bump your leg as a greeting, that if he jumped up and put his paws on you he would make sure all his weight was on his back legs so he didnt knock you over. He was so controlled.

I do a lot of food, and I do a lot of games with these dogs because I want to get them into a high state of arousal, but I’m looking at the eye all the time. Are they starting to shoot me a look? Is the mouth getting a bit harder? And he didn’t, even when he was really aroused and getting a bit of colouration through the eyes, he was so controlled in the grabbing. He didn’t ever grab my hand, come up my arm, come up to my clothing, and anybody that’s worked with really powerful members of the bull breed family know that when they are out of control they can flip really quickly, and a game that’s exciting them can start redirecting on to the handler, and it’s not safe to play those kind of games with a dog that’s dangerous.

So I… it’s a mess, I just think this case has been an absolute mess.

Nando:

Ok so Sarah why do you think you were chosen to go in and do an assessment as opposed… there were four assessments done in total is that right?

Sarah Fisher:

Three.

Nando:

Three assessments done. So the first one by the dog warden is not included in that no?

Sarah Fisher:

No.

Nando:

Right so…

Sarah Fisher:

Well obviously I think that her experiences would be included, but Peter Tallack didn’t do a behaviour assessment. He just went to measure that dog to determine whether it was type or not. I was the only person qualified to discuss and to talk about dog behaviour and unfortunately my evidence was largely sort of overlooked, I would say.

Nando:

Why do you think that is?

Sarah Fisher:

I have no idea.

Nando:

That’s… I mean that to me sounds a little bit crazy because if you’re the only person qualified to deal with behaviour, which is exactly what we are worried about…

Sarah Fisher:

Yes, exactly.

Nando:

How the dog looks is not going to hurt anybody, it’s not going to cause any problems, but the behaviour is the main part of this problem

Donna:

And as I understand it the judge chose to dismiss your evidence?

Sarah Fisher:

Yes pretty well.

Donna:

And why do you think that is Sarah?

Sarah Fisher:

I was asked a question – I was asked if I worked with pit bulls and I explained in court that in England particularly there are pit bull types, so they are a mix of dogs, there are a mix of dogs that have got some bull breed in them, and I have a wealth of experience over seventeen years working with all manner of bull breeds and all manner of difficult dogs.

I work like Nando does with dogs that have got issues with dogs with dogs and other people, and some of the dogs that come to me I can’t touch, I can’t even hold the lead in that first one session, so we obviously talk the owner through techniques, to be able to help resolve some of the issues. I have a wealth of experience fostering dogs. I foster really difficult bull breed puppies for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and I explained that and I explained how full the shelters are in England, with bull breeds and I have… you know most of the shelters are full of Staffordshire bull terriers, and in the judge’s summary it just said ‘Sarah Fisher basically admitted that she never worked with pit bulls, that she does work with Staffordshire bull terriers‘.

Donna:

Listen I’ve got another question.

Sarah Fisher:

Sorry

Donna:

Sorry no you carry on.

Sarah Fisher:

I asked if I could collect his body when it became obvious that they were not going to let the family say goodbye, which actually had been discussed after the court proceedings. I was there, they were told that they could say goodbye if the ruling went against us, and I offered to go over, pick up his body, sign any document Belfast City Council wanted me to sign, that we would take photographs of his body, to ensure that at no point did anything get leaked onto the Internet that could then be twisted. That I would drive his body to a private pet crematorium, so I could bring Lennox’s, and only Lennox’s, ashes back to that family, and I was denied that request.

Donna:

That’s unbelievable isn’t it. I think that’s one of the big things that many are struggling to understand, you know. He’s gone, what is the issue with it now, you know, they couldn’t even get the collar.

Sarah Fisher:

There are a lot of question marks over this case, definitely.

Donna:

Exactly and I think a lot of the conspiracy theorists out there wonder exactly when he was put to sleep.

Sarah Fisher:

I have no idea. I mean he was in poor physical condition when I assessed him, but he did suffer…

Donna:

This was one of my next questions. My questions for you Sarah, in your document that you put on to the net, you’ve said that he had a lot of coat changes and possible injuries. Now were these ever explained to you?

Sarah Fisher:

No, a dog can suffer from neck injuries from tripping over as a puppy, running after balls and head over heels, playing a rough and tumble game with another dog, being inappropriately handled around the neck, by a choke chain, anything that tightens around the dog’s neck – there are many reasons why you get changes to the position of the atlas and axis, and this is what I specialise in, looking at these tiny details. He also had unlevel ears, which is again linked to a rotation in the upper parts of the neck, and a dog like that can then be sensitive to a stranger going to handle that collar.

It doesn’t mean you can’t change that; it doesn’t mean that you can’t educate the dog, get appropriate physiotherapy or something, to help reduce the sensitivity around that neck. Lennox absolutely had that when I saw him, and he also had a coat change in line with a nuchal ligament which again you get coat changes in dogs where there is soft tissue damage, tension in the skin, which can arise just because the dog’s carrying tension, not because there’s been an injury, but also where there has been skeletal damage, and he did have significant hair loss and newly forming scabs over his flanks, and he was also bleeding from the nail bed around the right hind foot, and I put all that in my report and I explained that, you know, this could make the dog sensitive to being touched, that I personally wasn’t going to put my hands all over this dog’s body because he had newly forming scabs everywhere, and it wasn’t… I didn’t believe it was fair to add more distress to the dog.

Nando:

Ok Sarah, sorry got to stop you there. Are you alright to hang on for a couple of minutes, we need to go first of all, Justine Monihan just wants to send her love out to the family, the Lennox family, she said she’s sitting there bawling her eyes out. If anything ever happened to her dog she doesn’t know what she would do. On top of that Siobhan Lyons has got a question for you Sarah. She says ‘do you think Lennox was put down for financial reasons‘ and ‘do you think they were worried about the backlash from other people whose dogs had already been destroyed‘?

Sarah Fisher:

Oh I dont know, I doubt it was for financial reasons, there are a lot of question marks around this case, and I… can I just say, I would never have made that statement last… at the end of last year and I wouldnt be discussing this in detail either, unless the clip of my assessment had been leaked on to the Internet in an attempt to portray Lennox in a negative light, and it was a three minute clip of him barking when he was in the van, and that was all that was uploaded, and at that point I did go public with it, because I would never discuss a court case ever, thats that, those discussions go on in court and they remain there.

Obviously this was in a public court, there were people in the public gallery. But I was not impressed that people – somebody from the prosecution team, because it was their video that was uploaded – attempted to discredit the family and to put that, portray that dog in negative light, and I wasn’t having that, so I immediately did make a public statement to counteract the negativity that was starting to build around that family. And when a dog is put down because of BSL it isn’t just the dog that’s destroyed, the family are destroyed as well, and that’s why we need to change this law.

Nando:

I completely agree, I think BSL doesn’t work. I have never met…

Sarah Fisher:

It doesn’t work.

Nando:

But BSL, wherever it is in the world, does not work; we certainly need to change that.

Sarah Fisher:

It doesn’t.

Nando:

What would you put in place then?

Sarah Fisher:

Oh this is a conversation that’s been going on and on and on and there’s never going to be one simple answer. The problem with BSL is it targets four types of dogs at the moment, but bigger more powerful breeds are coming through. The criteria that’s used to measure these dogs is open to interpretation as well and these dogs are seized and removed from their family homes and held for up to two years, and some of those dogs never have human contact. So that needs addressing straight away, that the dog can stay within it’s family while it’s being properly assessed while the court process continues.

I think we need to stop blaming one or two or three or four particular breeds, we need to really bring legislation in that actually addresses the reasons that dangerous dogs are out there, because there are dangerous dogs out there. I was asked to look at a dog for a client and that to me was a dangerous dog. The dog was quiet, it was silent, its head was down, it flew and flew at me, obviously it was muzzled, and I wasnt even doing anything, I wasnt even looking at the dog. Its eyes were black and that is a really worrying sign in a dog. I’m really pleased if a dog growls, because its giving me a really clear indication of where its starting to become more and more distressed. Its the silent dogs that just fly and fly and no amount of food or games or gentle handling can disguise that. And I did say to this owner you have to be realistic, I dont think we’re going to get anywhere, and looking at the type of dog that it is I’m really sorry to say that I believe this dog should be destroyed. Obviously my client doesnt want to hear that, obviously I have to give her the truth of my opinion if I’ve been asked something. But that dog may or may not conform to type as it gets bigger because it was quite young.

But when a client rings me and says I’ve got a dog that‘s bitten I know its nearly always going to be a Collie or a Jack Russell, and I dont want to label those dogs either. But they are the dogs that do, in my experience, a lot more biting than the bull breeds.

The problem is that people obviously sustain more damage when they are bitten by a dog with a bigger jaw and it’s the type of person that has some of these bull breed mixes that needs to be addressed as well. Any legislation isn’t going to change that because it’s targeting the wrong people. Innocent dogs, innocent families are being caught up in this.

Donna:

Hey Sarah, you do know that Nando’s got tattoos and a shaved bald head?

Nando:

And a pitbull.

Sarah Fisher:

(Laughs) That doesnt mean anything; that again is about prejudice based purely on appearance.

Nando:

Listen Sarah, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. I’m so pleased that you’ve taken the time out to join us on the show, have you got any last…

Sarah Fisher:

Thanks so much for asking me, it’s really important.

Nando:

It certainly is very very important and I know there are people that haven’t managed to get in touch with us on this, but luckily the Pet Professional Guild who is a fantasic organisation, they are recording this interview and they are going to have it up on YouTube a little bit later on. So anybody that does miss it, I’ll post the link and you will be able to share that as well. Sarah thank you so much for taking the time to join us

Sarah Fisher:

Thank you Nando.

Nando:

Hopefully we will get a chance to talk on a better subject.

Sarah Fisher:

Great, thank you very much.

Nando:

There you go, Sarah Fisher all the way from the UK and, as I say, you can get in touch with us, it’s 0034951043843 or you can get in touch via Facebook – just search for In the dog House DTC or send me a text message: 951140223.

Now my next guest is going to be Peter Tallack. I’m going to play a little bit of music and we are going to get him live on the line. If you want to talk to him please feel free to call in but I’m telling you now, if you are rude or if you are disrespectful I will cut you off, ok? I want you to make sure that your argument is valid, don’t just come on here with a rant. I do understand this is a very very emotional topic, but we are trying to get to the truth here; we need facts as opposed to emotion, ok guys? So if you can get in touch, and you certainly will want to get in touch our next guest is going to be Peter Tallack all the way from the UK.

[ 0:25:10 ]

Nando:

Good morning Peter, how are you doing?

Peter Tallack:

Good morning Nando, very well thank you and I hope the weather is better where you are than what it is here.

 Nando:

I can almost guarantee you it’s better than it is where you are. It’s beautiful sunshine outside. Thank you very much for taking the time to join us on the show this morning. I’ve got to say you are a very brave man because a lot of people are not happy with the whole Lennox case in general.

Now before we start I have said that you know you guys are getting a seriously rough ride. You’ve had death threats, you had everything from death threats to offers of sex, just to get Lennox off of the case is that true?

Peter Tallack:

Yeah absolutely, and can I just say thank you for giving me the opportunity. This is the very first time that I have spoken publicly about the case.

And as you know, you are aware of everything that’s gone on on the Internet, but on this side, on the, certainly the Council have really had their hands tied.

And I would never give, I knew the appeal was going to go on and on and on and therefore, it was bad enough as it is with the Internet bits and pieces, but actually had I said anything, would have just created another monster and it would have given more grounds for appeal and everything else.

So we waited and we sat and luckily I answered the phone to you as I said to you the other day the first time after we know the case is completely completed, and I hope people will give me a fair chance to to put one or two truths back into this rather unsavoury mess, and I gotta say that to those that are listening, please do not believe everything you have seen or read on the Internet.

Donna:

Hi Peter, it’s Donna from the Dog House here, how are you?

Peter Tallack:

Hello, I’m well thank you.

Donna:

Good good, and you are absolutely right, we are here today to try and get the truth. This isn’t you know a slanging contest or anything else, so guys listening, you know that’s not what it’s about please. So my first question for you Peter is why, in the first place, why did BCC choose you, you know to do an assessment?

Peter Tallack:

That’s a very good question and this is critical. I have I mean I have done work for Befast City Council prior but I happened to be in Nothern Ireland, I was in Newry, defending a dog believe it or not to which we were successful and a dog was acquitted, so I happened to be in Nothern Ireland when I got the phone call asking for my availability to come and examine Lennox… (incoherent speech)

Donna:

So right place, right time, ok, because many people are asking about your qualifications Peter versus somebody such as Sarah Fisher. It appears to the public that there aren’t any specific behavioural qualifications there.

Peter Tallack:

Let’s… thank you again for giving me the opportunity. When Lennox was seized and kept in custody the criminal, and this goes for it’s all sort of the UK Law, it does vary now between Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the basic principle of breaking the law is having ownership or possession of a pit bull type. Now I didn’t write the law but the stated case is how you determine type, and don’t forget the law’s now in the UK for twenty one years and by the stated case it’s decided if a dog is a pit bull type whether it looks like a pit bull and that’s a substantial number of the characteristics, and we use a guide again which is written in law under the stated case that we use an American Dog breeders’ Association original guide of seventy seven, and that’s ninety per cent looks and ten per cent behaviour, and and can I just say …

Donna:

So would it be fair to say then… go on Peter…

Peter Tallack:

No just, I was just going to say that just a little bit of history. When the law… I remember when Nando opened the programme today he said about BSL and dogs have to be destroyed, that’s not necessarily the case. Between 1991 and 1997 there was no discretion; if anybody had a pit bull in their possession convicted the dog had to be destroyed and all of us that worked in there had to work it, we were on handcuffs we didn’t agree with it…

Nando:

Peter stop, I’m really sorry, we are going to have to interrupt you there. We are going to have to go to a break. I know exactly where you are going with that and we are going to come straight back with that with that talk in just a moment.

[ 0:30:03 ]

Nando:

Now Peter just before the break we were talking about Lennox and we were talking about the law. In 1991 the Dangerous Dogs Act was passed is that right?

Peter Tallack:

Yes that’s correct(-incoherent speech-)

Nando:

And that meant that any dog that measured up to that standard had to be destroyed, but in 1997 there was a change in the law where if the dog was suitable and the owner was suitable then the dog could possibly be rehomed, does that sound…

Peter Tallack:

The technical words, if the dog didn’t pose, the dog with the owner didn’t pose a danger to the public it could be registered and that was a huge shift in the law, made a huge difference . It actually made it not only workable but helpful, very helpful. It meant both the police and enforcement agencies had discretion, didn’t have to prosecute, could (?) have it registered and even on conviction a magistrate had the power to allow a dog to go home on a Register. Vitally important that that’s stressed and the…

Nando:

Ok thats…

Peter Tallack:

because in the Lennox case…

Nando:

During our chat the other week… sorry go on Peter… during our chat the other week what we said was that Lennox was seized before the law had been changed in Belfast, so actually, are we looking at (-Tallack interrupts-)… sorry go on…

Peter Tallack:

No I was just going to say that there was an anomily in Northern Ireland that they didn’t get that amendment act, they should have got it 2000, 2001 and it was a bureaucratic cock-up. At the time of seizure of Lennox it wasn’t in at the time of completion of the trial and it was retrospective. The court had the power to register if it wanted to.

Donna:

Peter, I’ve just had a question come in – now there’s a lady saying you’re not addressing the issue of your lack of behaviour credentials. Now as I understand it… (Tallack-incoherent speech-)… as I understand it Peter your job at the time was basically to ensure the measurements of Lennox, and to decide if he was pit bull type. Now I’ve looked at your CV and, as I understand it again, when you became a dog legislation officer you had to study in-depth the pit bull and the relevant breeds, is that right?

Peter Tallack:

Right, yeah, yeah – let’s just change some of the wording on this yes. My my expertise in… just take measurements out of this is to identify whether a dog looks like a pit bull type and falls within the category, which are sometimes used, were introduced by the defence many years ago, so let’s take measurements out of this. Is this dog a pit bull type. Ten per cent of the category (-?-) and therefore I can and have previously given evidence in court on pit bull behaviour because of my experience and I know everybody has dismissed it on the Internet, but this is 25 hands-on years with pit bulls and a number of dog attacks and fatalities, and everyone seems to have forgotten that, that I’ve investigated (-?-) and on top of that I’ve been a dog handler and a dog lover and I’m in the middle (-?-). But at the end of the day somebody has to make decisions, I like dogs. These people are, sorry…

Donna:

But Peter, with regards to your qualifications, we have to ask you know? You have studied the pit bull, I understand what you’re saying, but have you actually studied behaviour?

Peter Tallack:

Yes what I’m saying is… this is where it gets really muddy. Lennox, when it went to court and the Barnes family were brought before the court their defence is whether this dog is a pit bull type ok. Now my examination is on type, but of course I comment on how the dog is at the time of the examination. It was not a behaviour test which I was (-?-) for and was in the public domain. Of course I’m entitled to comment.

Now bear in mind also that 95, 96 percent of all examinations that I do of pit bull types, they are happy, friendly dogs with this terrible reputation, terrible myth that they are man killers. They are not. They are generally very very human-friendly dogs. But on my examination of Lennox, and let’s also just categorically say now, there’s been so many myths, there has never been any challenge at all from any defence expert or the Barnes family that Lennox is not a pit bull. If this case was to be defended it should have been defended on the grounds that Lennox was a bull breed cross, and the only time that’s ever been said is on the Internet, not in court. The Barnes family had…

Nando:

Why do you think that is Peter?

Peter Tallack:

Because they know it’s a pit bull, they knew it from day one it was a pit bull. And I also, can I just rectify something that Sarah Fisher said? The defence had three experts examine the dog, three. The first expert was a qualified veterinary surgeon and a barrister, never been mentioned anywhere, and we know that that examination was not favourable to the defence but they are entitled… If the prosecution examined we have to disclose everything, if the defence they don’t have to, so the first expert, no mention whatsoever. Absolutely in and out ten minutes gone, conceded it was a pitbull, couldn’t even get in the compound to him.

The second expert David Ryan, he is a qualified behaviourist and he gave extensive evidence at the magistrate’s hearing at the actual conviction. But again the defence didn’t like his evidence, so by the time it got to an appeal they brought in another expert, being Sarah. So again don’t get me wrong, none of this is wrong but it’s interesting that it seems to be forgotten. Now the contribution… sorry…

Donna:

And Peter, based on…

Peter Tallack:

Sorry just let me finish, the actual defence is of type. Does it look like a pit bull? Well that was conceded at a very early stage, so in regards to evidence to temperament, both the dog warden and myself commented on our experience and what we saw, but we don’t have to prove that the dog is dangerous, it is for the defence to prove that its not. Does that make sense, do you understand where we where I…

Donna:

Yes we understand and I’m sure that’s going to come across. Now based on the fact that how the law stood when Lennox was seized and that wasn’t going to change anything, why did the court allow the behaviour assessments to be submitted if they wouldn’t help?

Peter Tallack:

Because at the very first hearing the judge, the magistrate there it it was at the, because they allowed in evidence, well I won’t name the magistrate but he was very well known, a professional magistrate. I must admit from the Belfast City Council side we wondered but then also there had been previous cases in Northern Ireland where magistrates had made orders or delayed it so they could make alternative arrangements.

There was the case of Bruce which was a completely different kettle of fish – Bruce was a pit bull (fell) foul of the law, I was not involved in it at all but temperament was very different and Bruce in fact eventually went off to live in southern Ireland. This is a different kettle of fish and the defence can of course bring in whatever evidence they like if they wish, and that was the route they chose to go, and you know I was on the prosecution side and not the defence that wasn’t the choice. But also I have to say at the time of the prosecution it was well known that the law was being changed and in fact I am quoted, I mean I wrote a paper for DARD saying about the registration and how you have to have that in if you (-?-) the prohibition to make it work.

Nando:

Listen Peter, we got to go to the news, but we were talking obviously about the case and you wanted to bring up the subjects about Sarah Fisher assessment didnt you. Now at the time, now please do correct me if I’m wrong, but at the time of Sarah Fisher’s assessment the dog was on a drug called Amitriptyline, did I even say that right ?

Peter Tallack:

That’s the one yes yes.

Nando:

Fantastic, least I got that right, Now tell me about Amitriptyline what does it do and why was the dog on it?

Peter Tallack:

Well again I’m just reading it off Google, and it’s basically an anti-depressant, a dog, poor old Lennox suffered from depression and various other things while he was kennelled, he was prescribed that by the veterinary surgeon, it sedates him and it also reduces aggressive and violent behaviour. I’m sorry but you can’t hold a proper behaviour test knowing that the dogs on that medication and you can’t take him off the medication because that wouldn’t be right for the temperament test because that wouldn’t be right, and again it’s a problem but that should be aired and talked about, not just forgotten about.

Nando:

Ok so I’ve got a few questions that have come in – the first is from Leonard Cecil of the Pet Professional Guild, he says ‘Was there ever a DNA test carried out to obtain what breeds were actually involved in this dog?”

Peter Tallack:

No it’s not… because it is not possible to do a DNA test. We have gone through this recently with the last company that are advertising (?), you can’t, there is no DNA test that could tell you exactly the type of dog and everybody talks about that but it doesn’t exist, and it’s a real shame, Could you imagine if that was the case, easy black and white, yes no, sorted. But it is not possible, there isn’t a DNA baseband also the law in pit bull type is not a specific breed of dog so even had a DNA been done it would have been no use and it’s accepted in the courts in the UK that DNA cannot determine type.

Nando:

Ok now we also got Mandy Berry on Facebook, she’s asked a question and she’s saying is it taken into consideration the number of years that the Barnes family had Lennox without incident, and were they looking at whether the dog was a danger to the public?

Peter Tallack:

Yes it is and it’s interesting that Caroline Barnes at the first court case, and much to all of our surprise, conceded that Lennox had been unpredictable – something had happened in his youth, and they have always walked him on a lead, walked him on a muzzle and he didn’t live in the house, he lived in the yard on a chain. He wasn’t a family pet inside and she conceded this in court and she didn’t… we were amazed and she conceded that he didn’t like strangers, she had to be careful with him, and this is evidence that was (introduced) by the defence.  

Donna:

And Peter, this isn’t evidence that’s out there in the public is it, because the public perception that you know from the campaign that’s is coming across is that Lennox was a family dog and they have even portrayed him as an unofficial assistance dog for their daughter.

Peter Tallack:

I totally, I absolutely agree and I’m not going to sit here now (-?-). What I would say to people is, look at the campaign, look at Facebook. See how many photographs of the dog there are inside the house on the settee with the family inside. The only photographs I’ve seen have been photoshopped. All of us have got pictures of our loved pets in the house and part of the family. I’m sorry but to sit and watch this for two years knowing what was really happening there and you know I ask people I ask people to look and research that, don’t just believe what I say.

May I say one other thing again, talking to people generally or ask Sarah. Sarah did the the examination she talked about parts of it going on to YouTube, the case is now finished, I ask Sarah, put all of her examination on to YouTube and let people make their own judgement of what went on and how Lennox was, and remind of course that he was under this very powerful drug. The case is finished, this can now go into the public domain now. None of the sort of sneaky bits and one side or the other, let’s, you know let people make their own minds up.

Nando:

Ok, they are very good points, now there is one last thing that I want to ask you. Does this Breed Specific Legislation work?

Peter Tallack:

Well right I will try and answer as quick as I can. In 1991 problems in the UK hadn’t been enforced because we had quarantine in Northern Ireland it might have worked. Now obviously history tells us it doesn’t work and it won’t work now we’ve got no borders in the UK so what with the EU pet passports, no it doesn’t work and and I’d like to say I mean I’m one of the people who say that. I don’t think you can just get rid of it overnight, it would be a very brave Home Secretary that abandoned it, there has to be something in it’s place.

One of the problems with all the outrage that’s gone on with Breed Specific it’s caught the interest of other large party groups. My personal view is that you can’t just get rid of it, you need to replace it. If you brought back dog licensing and dog registration and then categorised it, so that if you wanted a pit bull you wanted a guard dog or whatever , then I think that would be the way forward, but there has to be(-?-) there was a programme recently just (-?-). Everything in the UK’s regulated except pets. You have to have a… if you buy a TV they chase you up for a licence and here we are with all these dogs and there’s no money in the public services for dog warden and education. Registration, let’s finance the regulation ourselves, let the good people who live there. I’ve seen dogs getting attacked by bull breeds, let’s try and stop that, and it is the people, absolutely the people that will start the interest in these big powerful dogs really.  

Nando:

Ok Peter thank you so much for coming on and putting your point across it’s really, I’ve got to say you are a very brave man to come and join us, well done thank you very much and hopefully you know we will talk again in the future and maybe not on such a touchy subject.

Donna:

Yes thanks Peter, you’ve been great.

Peter Tallack:

I think I may get one opportunity your listeners email you with any questions and if it’s in the public domain I will answer them I’m happy to do that. All the people involved in this on our side have nothing to hide I promise.

[ 0:45:12 ]

Nando:

There you go guys if you do have any questions you can e mail me nando@italkfm.com. I will pass them on and Peter will answer them when he can and I’ll get that message back to you so if you do have any questions dont be afraid to get in touch.

Now joining me all the way from the UK I have Victoria Stilwell, good morning Victoria, how are you?

Victoria Stilwell:

Good morning, good thank you.

Nando:

Thank you very much for taking the time to join with us, I’m very excited to talk to you about this case. Now we’ve got a slight echo, can you hear me alright?

Victoria Stilwell:

Yeah I can hear you, can you hear me?

Nando:

Yeah you’re coming across perfectly. Now there is obviously quite a few sticky points on this case, just tell people where you stand and your point of view on the whole thing.

Victoria Stilwell:

Ok, a year ago I was brought on to the case as an unofficial outside view, to see the videos of the assessment that had been done on Lennox by David Ryan, and to give my own point of view with regards to the assessment. I was also privy to the report that Tallack had made, and we know that Peter Tallack was brought on to measure Lennox to see if he was a pit bull type, not to give a behavioural evaluation, and even in his report he stated that he had been brought in to do a measurement and that he wasn’t asked to comment on behaviour. But he, in his opinion, believed that Lennox was showing signs that Lennox was potentially a dangerous dog, and that was one paragraph of his behavioural assessment.

I thought that that was fine for him to offer his opinion, fine for him to do the measurements, even though I think the whole thing of measuring a dog to be a pit bull type is laughable, and something that in the law needs to be changed because it’s so highly flawed… but then I had the chance to view the video of David Ryan’s assessment myself and offer my opinion in writing to the courts and then also subsequently review Sarah Fisher’s complete assessment of Lennox, along with her report as well; talk to the family, get some information. Unfortunately I asked if I could see Lennox myself along with a fantastic canine aggression expert from America, and we weren’t allowed to go see him, because we also wanted to be able to offer our opinions of actually getting hands-on with the dog as well.

So from what I saw on both occasions during an hour long assessment, a thorough behavioural assessment of this dog in a stressful environment with people he did not know, I was very impressed with the way that he behaved, the inhibition he showed, and the willingness to engage in social contact, with the people that were assessing him.

Nando:

Fantastic, now listen I’ve got a caller that’s come live on the líne – good morning caller you’re live… hello caller?

Donna:

They’ve gone shy.

Nando:

Ah bless. this is what happens when Victoria Stilwell comes on the líne. So Victoria you gave Belfast City Council a way out?

Victoria Stilwell:

Yes

Nando:

Why do you think they didn’t go for it?

Victoria Stilwell:

Because I think they had something to prove, because they kept on saying, this is the line that’s been going on. I called Belfast City Council again and again and again, I called them so many times to ask to speak to the chief executive. Every single time I called them I was told he was unavailable. Now you can’t be unavailable for weeks and weeks on end can you? It was obvious he didn’t want to talk to me.

I gave them a way out, I said ‘look, in order for all of this to go away, for you to do the decent thing, I’m prepared to pay for all expenses to take Lennox to a sanctuary‘. We have a fantastic sanctuary ready to take him, that takes on various dogs that are either deemed dangerous by the courts, whether they are or not, and they live in the sanctuary, a beautiful life until they pass away. To me, with no liability to Belfast City Council, and with absolute one hundred percent assurances that everything would be done to ensure the public safety and everybody else who’s dealing with the dog’s safety, knowing that the people who deal with the dog in the sanctuary deal with very difficult dogs.

Now to me, from what I’ve heard, and from what I’ve actually seen of Lennox’s own behaviour himself, he was not a dangerous dog, but in order to placate the Council, in order to placate everybody, I was willing to take this dog to a sanctuary where he was away from the public domain at my expense. That was refused, it was refused first…

Nando:

At your expense?

Victoria Stilwell:

At my expense, yes. We had the funds, we had the money, we had the planes, we had you know, and let me just say I’m not a wealthy person, but we had the funds and the money and the transport to be able to do this, to facilitate it right away, right away. That was ignored, that was rejected, and for me I think that just shows that you know Belfast City Council kept on saying that ‘he’s dangerous’, ‘he’s dangerous’, that’s all they said. But you know there was a way out. There was a way out that would help them save face; there was a way out that would protect the public if indeed Lennox was a dangerous dog, which I do not believe he was, and there was a way out for people who had… for everybody really. For everybody who had supported Lennox to say Belfast City Council did the right thing. It was rejected.

Donna:

Victoria, it’s Donna from the Dog House, hi how are you?

Victoria Stilwell:

Hi hello.

Donna:

I have a bit of a controversial question and that is, considering the law, was it not the case that the original law under which Lennox was seized stood, so whatever happened, behaviour assessments aside, anything that was offered, they were always going to destroy him?

Victoria Stilwell:

I think they were because I think they had something to prove. Now you see, Belfast City Council have not spoken to me at all, they have not; they have not said anything. They have not come on the phone, they’ve not done anything, so how do I know what they are thinking? I have heard from other representatives, but not from Belfast City Council at all. And so it’s really difficult to try and understand where they are coming from, because there has been such resistance, it’s literally been…

Donna:

Do you think that that’s because they didn’t want to heighten the publicity further, you know we’ve got these great people on board that you know are getting everybody behind the case, and they have been very quiet haven’t they?

Victoria Stilwell:

Very very quiet, because I think, and you see I dont know and look, I understand on the Internet and on Twitter and Facebook, things can get out of hand. Theres been threats, theres been all kinds of intimidation, the Council members being intimidated, I dont agree with that, I dont agree with people being unpleasant and unkind and people calling people names, that just doesnt work, but I do think that you must have the decency to at least have a dialogue with people that are trying to help. Especially myself who was offering a way out and they flatly refused to talk to me.

The only time I got to talk to any kind of representative was when I did an interview on BBC Ulster Radio with Pat McCarty, thats the only time, and then all he could come on and say was that pit bulls are dangerous thats it, just blanket statement. That he’d had experience, he understood what the family was going through because he’d put a lot of dogs down himself, his own personal dogs…I mean seriously, if thats a representative…

Nando:

Its not the same

Victoria Stilwell:

It’s not the same. These were dogs that were loved dogs, that were with him until they had to be put down for whatever reason, illness or age. He hadn’t gone through what the family had gone through, with their beloved dog been taken away from them for two years and having to fight a legal battle, and seriously that just shows if he is representing the Belfast City Council, with what he said, seriously they have absolutely no idea of the impact.

Nando:

I think this is a major part of the law that you know people that are making these laws putting these things in place don’t have a clue about dogs, it’s a major flaw.

Victoria Stilwell:

Absolutely, do not have a clue about dogs, and they label dogs, especially pit bulls and that kind of breed thats the demon dog, be careful of the pit bull because it’s is going to rip your throat out now. I can talk about pit bulls because I work with them every day of my life. I work with pit bull puppies, teach them, I work with adult pit bulls and to commence their training I work with pit bull therapy dogs, I work with pit bull service dogs. I work with pit bulls that have anxiety issues. I work with some that are aggressive, I work with a whole range of them, the pit bull types I should say. I work with all kinds of bully breeds and German Shepherds, Rottweillers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and you know what, I treat every dog the same.

Look I’m not saying that these dogs cannot be dangerous in the wrong hands. I’m not saying that a Chihuahua can’t really hurt a child if it’s in the wrong hands and being brought up incorrectly, I’m saying we have got to look at the dog’s specific behaviour and not target it just because of its type, of a certain breed, and it’s the fear mongering that’s been going on.

The media and people like Belfast City Council and their experts have been putting the fear of God in people. Tallack stated “this is one of the most dangerous dogs I’ve ever seen”. Come to Atlanta, I’ll show you some maybe dangerous dogs. I didn’t, I wasn’t with Lennox 24/7, no, I only saw the behavioural evaluations of two highly qualified behaviourists, Sarah Fisher and David Ryan. I trust those people very very much because they are extremely good at what they do. And let me just tell you, Tallack and I have had our differences, he knows, I know, and unfortunately it became public when people started asking me questions and I didn’t want to say it but I had to answer their questions all right. I didn’t hear his whole interview but what I did hear was if Tallack in his expert opinion can give an opinion about Lennox’s behaviour, if he is indeed a behavioural expert, why does he have to Google, as he just stated on your show, he had to Google to find out what Amitriptyline was? If you are a behavioural expert you know what Amitriptyline is.

Amitriptyline is a medication that is given, as he quite rightly stated, to dogs that are having anxiety, depression issues and various difficulties, because – but why, it doesn’t drug a dog, it doesn’t sedate a dog. What Amitriptyline does is it heightens the levels of Serotonin in the dog’s brain. So it takes the edge off the stress that the dog might be feeling. It is not a drug that sedates a dog.

You can do a behavioural evaluation on a dog that is on a particular drug like Amitriptyline. You couldn’t do a behavioural evaluation on a dog that, for example, is on Xanax, which is a temporary sedating drug. But you can do as long as you state that that dog is on Amitriptyline at the time that you do it, which Sarah Fisher stated.

Nando:

Good stuff. Victoria hold fire. Right we need to go to a break, are you ok to hang on for a couple of minutes?

Victoria Stilwell:

Absolutely.

Nando:

Fantastic we will speak to you in just a moment.

[ 0:57:29 ]

Nando:

Now I do have somebody on the line that’s got a question for Victoria Stilwell. Hello caller you’re live.

Mystery Caller:

Hi, I’ve not actually got a question, I just wanted to point something out. Theres a couple of irregularities as in the fact that the Council refused to rehome the dog. In actual fact they wouldnt have been able to. One, the dog had a destruction order upon it and they could not go against the court, and the second thing is, even had the dog been exempted and allowed to basically become a legal dog, it would still be against the exemption rules to rehome the dog, so the dog could only have gone home… the Council wouldnt have had a choice.

Nando:

Ok Victoria.

Victoria Stilwell:

I understand that I understand that, and I had actually given my offer which a lot of people don’t know – I actually gave my offer to Belfast City Council many many months ago, before the final judgement….

Mystery Caller:

That wouldn’t matter, that wouldn’t actually matter… before the court case…

Victoria Stilwell:

I understand, I do understand that, no I do and I do understand that…

Mystery Caller:

Your comments previously were a little bit misleading to the general public who might think that this is a possibility in the future.

Victoria Stilwell:

I actually never argued the point of law that when a dog is deemed dangerous that it can’t be let out of the country, I actually never even mentioned that on the radio so I don’t know where you got that from.

Mystery Caller:

No you said that you felt that they were being obstructive. That they had no choice the dog either needed. The court only had two options, they can either exempt or they can destroy, they don’t have the option to rehome so… before the court.

Victoria Stilwell:

No no, can I also just tell you I get that, I understand that, and I have made that very plain on my Facebook and on Twitter and I understand the point of law, but …

Mystery Caller:

I don’t think you should say this on the radio which is why I rang in.

Victoria Stilwell:

Could you just let me talk, I mean seriously could you just let me talk. Thank you. What is it with people, just let me talk, I understand that. I had given it many many months ago, they knew it, I had given them a way out. Now for example, when you have a dog that is deemed dangerous right, there was no, my argument with Belfast City Council was that the way that they went about this the whole prosecution. The way that they persecuted this dog. Now they say ‘our hands are tied we can’t do anything because the law has ruled in favour of this dog being put down and he’s a dangerous dog, our hands are tied’. But let’s… they fought very very hard for that judgement, they did everything in their possible power to fight very very hard…

Mystery Caller:

I don’t see why they they had to, they only had to (-?-)

Victoria Stilwell:

Didn’t they

Nando:

Ok now ladies, please let’s have one at a time. I’m going to have Victoria Stilwell on speaking first. Ok Victoria, go on.

Victoria Stilwell:

Yeah, Belfast City Council worked very hard to get that judgement. I came on a year ago to talk to them then and say look this, you are not listening and neither are the courts listening to two expert witnesses who handled Lennox and gave a thorough behavioural assessment. In fact you know listening to them you’re actually saying to them that in court that you are going with a former police dog handler who wasn’t even brought in to do a behavioural assessment anyway. You’re going on his word. That to me is not fair, that is not just, not just to me but to millions of people who followed this case closely from Year One. I understand the law, I understand the fact that once a dog is deemed dangerous that it can’t go out of the country, but there was also a way. The courts can, Belfast City Council can say, you know what we understand the courts ruling they could, they they could, they did have the right to be able to say ‘let us look into this’. They could do it.

Nando:

Ok Victoria, can I just interrupt there and let’s have the caller come back on. Hello caller, what would you like to respond to that?

Mystery Caller:

Well basically they couldn’t do that, they can’t change, they have two options. The court has two options. To exempt, in which case the dog would be under restriction, part of those restrictions are that it can’t be rehomed, so therefore the dog wouldn’t be able to be rehomed. This would occur from the second the first court case happened, and at the first court case there was no amendment in place that only came in in July of last year so they weren’t able to exempt at that point anyway. It then went to appeal and at the appeal court the court decided again that the dog needed to be destroyed, there was no options.

Nando:

Ok caller

Victoria Stilwell:

There was no evidence, lady what you don’t understand is that the evidence was flawed, evidence was flawed right from the start even before it got to the point. That’s not what you’re getting. The evidence was flawed right from the start.

Mystery Caller:

The prosecution… don’t have to produce evidence, it’s down to the defence.

Victoria Stilwell:

Well I’m sorry, the assessments that were given… I don’t know the legal term. I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know legal talk, but what I am saying is that the behavioural evaluations – let’s talk behaviourists talk, that’s the kind of talk I can talk, evaluations, that the …

Mystery Caller:

So can I, I’m a behaviourist myself.

Victoria Stilwell:

Oh my gosh lady, you seriously, carry on, carry on go for it.

Mystery Caller: (laughs)

I will answer the Council… you just told me to carry on so I’m going to carry on.

Victoria Stilwell:

You are lady, you are aren’t you, interesting, carry on, that’s the kind of people, this is the kind of people we’ve been up against. Go on, no please you’ve got the radio.

Mystery Caller: (laughs)

I actually work (-?-) for the defence and I will not, you know I am not going to comment on a dog that I havent assessed. I would also, I accept that I agree with you, a dog can be assessed on Amitriptyline, but that wouldnt be a true assessment of how its going to be when its not on Amitriptyline, but you can assess a dog on Amitriptyline and I agree totally with that and I would… its just an opinion.

Nando:

So hang on, hang on – so if you were to assess a dog on Amitriptyline and you decided actually this dog is suitable for rehabilitation, then you could use that Amitriptyline as part of your behaviour modification programme surely?

Mystery Caller:

Yes you could in order to prevent problems, yes you could continue to use that and then you could eventually lower the dosage until there is no dosage any more. But the point is it won’t achieve a true view of how the dog is and how it would be when it went home, and the fact is you’ve got to take into consideration a lot of other things as well. You know, environment, socialisation, the fact that the dog had stress in the past. I’m not saying anything about this dog because as a behaviourist I am not going to comment on a dog I haven’t seen. I’m not (harping) on that.

Nando:

Ok thank you very much for your comments, Victoria, go ahead.

Victoria Stilwell:

Good grief, wow, alright, ok. Well first of all I… here’s the thing. When you assess a dog and a dog is on… any assessment, regardless.. let me get to this point ok. Lennox was assessed when he was under extreme stress, let’s just take what everybody else feels about this case… I’ve met their other dogs too, who live inside the house with them.

I …this is a dog under stress, this a dog that’s been taken away from his family, put in a shelter, handled by strangers. Was there ever a record of a bite in the two years he was incarcerated and handled by strangers? No. When he was assessed he was also under a stressful environment, in a strange place being handled by strangers, one a very tall man, David Ryan, and then the second time by a woman ok, in a strange place. All the time during both of these assessments you can see Lennox going back to the dog warden who was handling him, trying to seek comfort from her. This is the same dog warden that said he was dangerous and that she was scared of him. The same dog warden that was stroking him and cuddling him and telling him it was ok and here was a dog that was trying to seek comfort from her all the time.

At one point during both of the assessments David Ryan was, he was teasing Lennox to see if he could get a reaction from Lennox. Thats what sometimes you do in a behavioural assessment, to be able to put dogs in a more stressful situation to see how they are going to react, and at no time every single time David was just doing… just assessing how he was and teasing him and did Lennox react badly? One time when he had Lennox up against the wall did Lennox jump and bark at him and tell him I’ve had enough back off. A dog has a right to do that. All through, Lennox showed incredible inhibition with behaviour and bite and trust and always trying to practice avoidance rather than getting involved. He was doing everything he could do to be able to feel comfortable, feel safe and away from any kind of threatening strangers. Is this a dog that’s dangerous? No I work with dangerous dogs, I understand the difference, Im not a crazy animal activist, I’m not a crazy person, but I do believe in justly watching behaviour and going and mam, youre probably still on the phone but…

Nando:

No she’s gone don’t worry.

Victoria Stilwell:

Ok she‘s gone, so thats the reason why I can talk. That I did watch, I watched the full footage, the full assessments of both, and if she is a behaviourist and she watched, she hopefully would see what I saw, what Sarah Fisher saw and what David saw, which was amazing behaviour under the stress he was in. Now of course, you know Nando as well as I know that it doesnt matter, any kind of behavioural assessment, you cant put a predictor on future behaviour. You can have an idea, but you cant say that next or a month down the line you’re not going to be angry again. Nobody can put an absolute predictor on behaviour.

Nando:

Well this is the thing, she was saying that you can’t do an assessment on Amatriptolene. But you couldn’t do it in that environment anyway because that is going to have an effect on its, you know its…

Victoria Stilwell:

Exactly. What Im saying Nando is that it showed even more exemplary behaviour from Lennox in a stressful environment and yet he still, his behaviour was still. This signals he gave practising avoidance, trying to appease his aggressor, he even had one (-?-) towards him but trying to appease the strangers around him with a camera looking at him under stress, that is a dog under stress. When he goes home to his more comfortable, less stressful environment his behaviour is going to be even better. Thats what I’m trying to get out there to the public.

Nando:

Fantastic. Listen Victoria, we need to go to another break are you ok to hang on?

Victoria Stilwell:

Yes I am.

Nando:

Excellent, we are going to have Jim Crosby join us just after the break as well, are you alright with that? Fantastic, good stuff, don’t go anywhere.

We have had all sorts of questions that I do really really want to ask and I know that people are hammering Facebook and email and all sorts.

However, I have to prioritise and during the break I did have call in from Sandie Lightfoot. Sandie Lightfoot is the dog warden that is involved with the Lennox case. She’s probably the closest person to this dog that has been involved with the whole court case from the word go. Now I have to say I think it was very very brave that she called in because let’s be honest you don’t go for a dog warden’s job if you’re not a dog lover, and I think the way that she’s been treated is disgusting.

Donna:

She’s had a lot of horrible comments come her way.

Nando:

She’s had some death threats, she’s had various different things. Now she didn’t want to come live on air which is understandable, but what she did say was she never said in court that she was frightened of Lennox. What she did say was that he was one of the most aggressive and unpredictable dogs that she had ever come across in her experience and she has quite a lot of experience working with pit bull type dogs. Victoria, what would you say to that.

Victoria Stilwell:

I would say it was… of course I’m not disputing the fact that she was with Lennox (-?-), you know a lot of the time he was incarcerated and in a very stressful environment. What I saw of the behaviour of Lennox with her was a dog trying to seek comfort from her and a woman that was giving that comfort back to him. I didn’t see any kind of fear in her. Ok she said she wasn’t frightened; I didn’t see… you know if if this dog is unpredictable and as dangerous as she said that he is, well then the way that she stroked him, the way that he obviously had a bond with her is, seems strange to me, it seems very very odd to me.

Now you know Nando yourself, when dogs are confined, when in a stressful environment, in a shelter environment, their stress levels can change, can alter their behaviour and then when they come out of these stressful environments their behaviour returns to the normal behaviour before. Sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes a dog is so stressed out by what they have been going through that they can’t return to normal. You know that’s the reality of it so…

Nando:

Yeah I would completely agree.

Victoria Stilwell:

I can’t say that she’s wrong, I can’t say she’s had more experience than anything but she didn’t help the case at all, she didn’t, I don’t, and again I wasn’t in court so maybe my comments on this are unfounded, but what I believe that she said was that she didn’t give any positive parts of this dog’s behaviour and everybody concentrated on the negative parts. I think it is brave of her, look we’ve all been on, you know when you put yourself out there. If Belfast City Council had been saying you know ‘we’ve had intimidation, we’ve had threats’, I don’t agree with that on anybody but I’ve been called, I’ve been called terible things, you know I’ve had my life threatened, I’ve had the all sorts of things for being on this case too. I’ve been sued after everything, or people have attempted to sue me , look this goes both ways. I don’t want everyone to think it’s just BCC that have been getting it and the dog wardens that have been getting it. The family themselves told me how some of the dog wardens have been sitting outside their house, that’s an intimidation tactic. You know it’s going crazy on all sides.

Nando:

It certainly is.

Victoria Stilwell:

I don’t agree with that at all, I don’t agree with Sandie Lightfoot having intimidation and being threatened I think it’s disgusting, but I do want the truth to come out in this case. And Nando can I just say one thing, I didn’t just call Belfast City Council to see if they could release Lennox to me. I understand the law; I understand that once the law has been made you can’t go against it, so in that way Belfast City Council’s hands were tied. But it was absolutely Belfast city Council’s decision, completely one hundred per cent, to be able to allow the family to see their dog before their dog was put down. They wouldn’t do that, repeated calls they wouldn’t do that because they said he’s dangerous.

They wouldn’t allow the family to have closure and even that even said ok in order to keep the family safe as you say the family can’t see their dog. But at least please release Lennox’s body to them afterwards, that’s what they are asking for. They want their dog’s body so they can bury their dog and have closure. They wouldn’t do that, why? This stinks this really stinks. What condition was Lennox in?

Nando:

Victoria, there are definitely some dodgy questions, but we are running out of time and I need to get you, we need to tie this up, moving forward. Now on the line I’ve also got Jim Crosby just joined me, good morning Jim.

[ 1:15:07 ]

Jim Crosby:

Good morning Nando how are you.

Nando:

Thank you so much for joining me. Now listen guys, we can fight over this case as much as we need to but what we really need to do is change BSL. Have either of you got a suggestion that we can do that would be better than the law that’s in place now?

Jim Crosby:

Absolutely, one can establish and put together a very strong dangerous dog law by focusing on dog behaviour. Quantifiable, clear definable fair behaviour standards that apply across all dogs at all times. That’s the way to go.

Nando:

Absolutely, and Victoria what do you think about that?

Victoria Stilwell:

I absolutely agree, and in fact I have worked very hard to change, along with lawyers to re-write and change the laws where I live in Georgia to protect children to protect people from dangerous dogs. We’ve re-written the laws and the law was fortunately a few months ago that puts the responsibility, it’s called the Responsible Dog Owner’s Law. It takes the emphasis off breed and it puts the emphasis on behaviour and owner responsibility and accountability. Much stiffer penalties for people who flout the laws in any way. This where we need to go, I completely agree with Jim.

Nando:

Ok, so Jim you got lots of experience in dealing with pit bulls and dangerous – and I mean proper dangerous – dogs, not just dogs that look a little bit like a pit bull?

Jim Crosby:

Right

Nando:

With your view on the recorded assessments that are on YouTube, would you say that Lennox was a danger to the public?

Jim Crosby:

No. The video tapes that I went over and the things that I saw, Lennox did not display any of the trigger behaviours or flagged behaviours that I would be looking for when I assess a dangerous dog or even the many dogs I have assessed that have actually killed human beings. That’s one of the reasons that Victoria and I were working to try and get me access to Lennox, because I don’t believe that there’s anybody in the UK that has ever probably handled even one dog that’s killed a human. I’ve handled over thirty and assessed those dogs and I know dangerous behaviour when I see it.

Sarah Fisher did a good evaluation, she said he was fine. David Ryan did an evaluation and did not see any substantial aggressive behaviour. As an outsider without any political ties there, I was hoping to be able to come in and give the Belfast Council an out and say heres somebody with experience that doesnt exist in the UK, and if this guy says hes ok he must be ok and frankly Nando, if I had gotten there and found aggression or found that Lennox was aggressive, I would have said this dog had the following specific behaviour problems as shown in these specific actions. And we would have been able to quantify and exactly describe. The term the most dangerous or unpredictable I’ve ever seen, thats hogwash. I’ve seen dogs that they have never seen before. If they think Lennox was a horrible dog, I feel sorry for them. I’ve got cocker spaniels I’d like to let loose on them.

Nando:

Very good, now listen, what do we think about getting our dog wardens trained in behaviour so that they have got more more of an inside view on this?

Jim Crosby:

They should be, should be better trained in behaviour; they should have a lot more training. They are being asked to do a combination between a psychologist, a veterinarian and a police officer’s job, and they are sadly provided too little training in all of those jobs. They need more, both in your country and here in the US.

Nando:

Victoria, what do you think about that?

Victoria Stilwell:

I think a dog warden’s job is extremely difficult because they are going into homes where they have to make some quick decisions sometimes, some very difficult decisions where they have to take away people’s family members. They have to, you know it’s, I don’t think it’s an easy job at all and I think the lack of training that they get in being able to recognise and understand the intricacies of dog behaviour, makes their job even harder. I absolutely think they need to be better trained, both in, not just in the UK, it’s also in the United States as well.

Nando:

Ok, so guys we’ve got to tie this up now. Thank you so much for joining me today. Unfortunately we could go on for another hour easily on this but we are going to have to call it a day there.

2 thoughts on “TALLACK Radio Interview : Nando Brown Show

  1. At best this man has a short term memory problem…. he insists that as the case is now over this is the first time he has spoken about it. Was the BBC Radio Ulster interview a figment of our imagination, not to mention that e mail his friendly trolls were only too happy to post while the case was on-going???

    Then we have his comments about the defence admitting Lennox was a yard dog…perhaps one of his trolls pals would like to point out exactly where this comment is in the court documents they happily bang on about. I’m not surprised people were looking at him from the court gallery if this is the kind of drivel they were subjected to!!!

    Peter Tallack attempted to sue all and sundry who dared to question his lack of qualifications and highly unprofessional behaviour throughout the Lennox case. Given his position surely its time that the powers that be who choose to afford him that position, and pay him very well for his ‘services’, would question his suitability for such an important role, which ultimately can mean life or death for innocent family pets.

    • He is the most unsuitable person i can think of to judge another living creature. I wonder if the papers would be interested in seeing his discrepancies and lies? That is a headline that would be worth seeing. I’m still horrified by the stupidity of those who believe his self made accreditations but then those people are all riding on a glory high themselves aren’t they. I just hope they get their karma while they are still alive so they can feel the same pain they’ve inflicted on hundreds of loving dog owners.

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