Belfast City Council's statement in full
Belfast City Council can confirm that an assessment carried out on Hank the dog has recommended that he is placed on the council's exemption register, under the Dogs (NI) Order 1983.
This means that, although assessed by an appropriate expert to be a pit bull terrier type, he can be returned to his owners, following court approval with conditions, most of which are mandatory under this legislation.
Hank first came to the attention of the council due to concerned members of the public raising a welfare issue which did not relate to Hank's owners.
He has displayed some behavioural issues but, having worked with him since he was taken into our possession, and, in light of the expert opinion received, we believe these can be addressed through additional training.
Subject to this court approval, and with the agreement of his owners, Hank will be the 12th dog to be placed on the exemption register and returned to their owner by the council since 2011, out of 13 dogs assessed to be pit bull types during this period.
All 12 have had conditions attached to their return which are aimed at addressing issues of public safety.
We have written to Hank's owners' solicitors today, informing them of the conclusions of our expert, seeking agreement on the steps to be taken to ensure Hank can be admitted to the exemption scheme, and providing suggestions on how to comply with the proposed conditions attached to this.
The council has also offered to provide a full copy of our expert's report as soon as it is received, and to work with Hank's owners to support them in following the conditions recommended as part of his assessment.
It is anticipated that this matter will be brought through the courts as quickly as possible, following agreement from all parties on the recommended conditions, enabling Hank to be returned to his owners.
He will remain within the council's care until then and we again reassure all those who expressed an interest in Hank's welfare that his needs are being met, and will continue to be met, during this time.
The council has a statutory responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public by carrying out its duties under the current breed specific legislation, which is set by the Northern Ireland Assembly and not Belfast City Council.
This involves following the legally accepted assessment process to determine whether a dog is a banned breed and, if so, whether they pose a danger to the public.