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Hank's owners apologise for latest delay in Stormont dog laws protest

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 11/08/2016

Hank back with his owners Joanne Meadows and Leonard Collins
Hank back with his owners Joanne Meadows and Leonard Collins

A rally demanding reform of Northern Ireland's controversial dog laws has been postponed for a second time.

The event, which was due to take place on Sunday, was called off amid concerns over crowd numbers.

It will be rescheduled at a later date, its organisers said.

The rally was organised to protest at Breed Specific Legislation, which has come back under the spotlight after Hank the dog was seized by Belfast City Council.

Hank was removed from his owners Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows last month after officials deemed he was a banned pit bull terrier type. He was only released after a court granted an exemption order.

Leonard and Joanne have pledged to continue the fight to reform legislation, and had organised a rally at Stormont.

It had already been postponed from August 7 due to time constraints and guest availability. The decision to postpone Sunday's rally for a second time was announced yesterday.

It came after Leonard was informed by officials on Wednesday that it could not go ahead as planned.

"The number of people hoping to travel to Stormont to support a change in the Breed Specific Legislation is vast and we need to get organised to ensure every person and every dog will be safe and properly catered for on the day," he said.

Leonard apologised to supporters, but said the matter was out of their hands. "I am devastated that this is not happening," he added.

"It is very difficult to gauge numbers but, at a conservative estimate, I think we could have had 2,000 people there. We fully intend that it will go ahead at a later date."

Hank was seized from his East Belfast home on July 14, prompting a huge online campaign.

An expert concluded the dog was a pit bull terrier type but, while his behaviour was "boisterous", there was no evidence he posed a threat. He returned home last Tuesday.

Leonard said Hank has shown signs of unease after his ordeal.

"The first couple of days or so he was absolutely fine, but we have noticed in the last few days that he is getting very agitated," he added.

"He is extremely lethargic and is not reacting well to other dogs while on his muzzle, which is something we've never had a problem with previously."

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