Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Hank the dog owners 'hurt' as they claim Belfast City Council 'refusing their calls' for updates

Belfast City Council issues statement to Belfast Telegraph

By Claire Williamson

Published 27/07/2016

Hank the dog
Hank the dog
A campaign has been launched to save Hank the dog
Hank with his owner Joanne Meadows
Hank
Hank as a pup
Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows at home after their dog Hank was seized by Belfast City Council
Hank the dog with owner Joanne Meadows
Hank was taken from his home by dog wardens
Joanne Meadows with her dog Hank
Owners of Hank the dog say he is a Staffie/Labrador cross but dog wardens maintain they think he might be a pit bull which is a banned breed
Some of the pictures of Hankhis owner has shared online
Hank the dog with owner Joanne Meadows
Some of the pictures of Hankhis owner has shared online

The owners of a dog seized because it "looked like a pit bull" have claimed Belfast City Council have ceased communication with them.

Hank was seized by Belfast City Council two weeks ago after a member of the public reported him.

Owners Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows have had Hank since he was a puppy.

The family pet was confiscated under the Dogs (NI) Order 1983 amid a heavy presence of eight police officers and four dog wardens.

A Facebook page set up to support the owners' campaign has more than 65,000 followers and a fundraising page set up to help pay legal costs has raised £17,733 at time of writing.

On Wednesday the owners claimed that Belfast City Council are "refusing" to speak to the owners about Hank, after they phoned for an update.

They said they were "Hurt, angry and appalled at the latest development".

Read more

Owners of Belfast death row dog Hank vow to take fight to Europe as fund to save him tops £16k

Hank hasn't been taken for walk in 10 days, claim owners of seized dog

Save Hank campaign: Belfast City Council website swamped with messages

The post read: "I phoned the council this morning for an update on Hank. They have informed me that they are now refusing to speak to me regarding Hank. They will provide me no information on Hank, his condition, his assessments or anything at all. The only communication I have now is through my solicitor. This means a delay of several days to find out even the most basic of information.

"At the beginning of this I wanted to give Belfast City Council the benefit of the doubt, I was keen to keep this campaign as positive as possibly yet every step of the way BCC have show just how little regard they have for Hank and Joanne and I.

"We are hurt, angry and appalled at this latest development."

The campaign has been supported worldwide and has made headlines across major media outlets.

Update

Belfast City Council has now issued an update. In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph it said: "The council has a statutory duty to enforce breed specific legislation, which is not set by us, but by the Northern Ireland Executive.

"We acknowledge the interest expressed in Hank’s case and are working very hard to complete this assessment, using appropriate experts, as quickly as possible; we will, of course, inform Hank’s owners of the outcome of this assessment as soon as it has been completed.

"Some coverage of this case has omitted any reference to the behavioural part of the assessment, creating the impression that a finding that Hank is a pit bull terrier type will inevitably result in him having to be euthanised.

"This however is not the case. Since an exemption scheme became available, the council has been able to return ten out of the eleven dogs it has found to be pit bull types to their owner, under appropriate conditions sanctioned by the courts.

"Hank is being well looked after, and his medical and dietary needs are continuing to be met. We have written to Hank’s owners to update them on his current welfare, and clarify the assessment process. We have also explained that we will continue to keep them informed, via their legal representatives, about the outcome of his assessment and what option we intend to pursue, once this has been completed. 

"The council has received a large volume of correspondence in relation to this issue. As the assessment process is still ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further on specific details of this case."

The full statement can be read below.

Belfast City Council statement to Belfast Telegraph in full

Belfast City Council wishes to clarify some matters in relation to the case of Hank the dog.

The council has a statutory duty to enforce breed specific legislation, which is not set by us, but by the Northern Ireland Executive. Our principal duty in relation to this legislation is protecting the health and safety of the public, a duty carried out across the city by our dedicated and experienced officers. 

Under the Dogs (NI) Order 1983 as amended, both the dog’s characteristics and behaviour must be assessed to determine whether it is a banned breed and, if so, whether it poses a danger to the public.

A full assessment is being undertaken to ascertain whether Hank is a pitbull terrier type dog, which are banned under the legislation.

The legally accepted test is by way of assessment against a breed standard, partly due to the fact that it is recognized that DNA testing is not an adequate indicator to assess this type of dog. The assessment is a two-part test, in relation to both Hank’s physical characteristics and his behaviour.

We acknowledge the interest expressed in Hank’s case and are working very hard to complete this assessment, using appropriate experts, as quickly as possible; we will, of course, inform Hank’s owners of the outcome of this assessment as soon as it has been completed. 

There are three options open to the council:

  • if the dog is not a banned breed, i.e. a pit bull terrier type, it is returned to its owner;
     
  • if the dog is deemed to be of a banned breed, but judged not to be dangerous, it may, with court approval and conditions attached, be placed on the council’s exemption scheme and returned to its owner, with conditions attached which the owner must comply with; or
     
  • if the dog is deemed to be of a banned breed, i.e. a pit bull terrier type, and judged to present a danger to the public, the matter is referred to the courts for a magistrate to decide whether a destruction order should be issued.

Some coverage of this case has omitted any reference to the behavioral part of the assessment, creating the impression that a finding that Hank is a pit bull terrier type will inevitably result in him having to be euthanized.

This however is not the case. Since an exemption scheme became available, the council has been able to return ten out of the eleven dogs it has found to be pit bull types to their owner, under appropriate conditions sanctioned by the courts.

Welfare

Hank is being well looked after, and his medical and dietary needs are continuing to be met. 

All animals in our care are kept in DAERA-approved facilities. Hank has been attended daily to facilitate settling in, and his welfare is also being met through veterinary examinations, and the use of toys and bedding, supplied by his owners.

While we were unable to walk him initially during the settling in period, staff have worked very hard to build a sound relationship with Hank, and he is now being walked, with staff hoping to continue this on a daily basis.

Visits from dog owners are not permitted – this is to help with the settling in process, and to ensure the security of all those animals in our care, as well as the health and safety of staff.

We have written to Hank’s owners to update them on his current welfare, and clarify the assessment process. We have also explained that we will continue to keep them informed, via their legal representatives, about the outcome of his assessment and what option we intend to pursue, once this has been completed. 

Feedback

The council has received a large volume of correspondence in relation to this issue. As the assessment process is still ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further on specific details of this case.

All feedback has been received and logged, but it is our priority, as well as our responsibility, to ensure that we carry out our duties under the current legislation, as well as maintaining our duty of care towards staff employed to carry out these duties, and continuing to provide a good level of service to our ratepayers.

Social media, in particular, has become a key means of updating people about, and responding to queries in relation to all our services and facilities, and we will continue to apply our ‘house rules’ to these channels in order to provide our usual service.

We respectfully remind users to please read these rules before using our pages, as repetitive and spam-like comments will be removed. Abusive, disruptive and threatening posts will also be removed and persistent offenders will be reported to both Facebook and the PSNI.

Online Editors

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph