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Hank's owners no longer a couple

By Claire Williamson

Published 20/08/2016

Joanne Meadows and Leonard Collins with their pet dog Hank
Joanne Meadows and Leonard Collins with their pet dog Hank

The owners of Hank the dog yesterday revealed they had split up months ago as they outlined their plans for spending the money raised to save their beloved pet from death row.

Hank's seizure from his east Belfast home by council dog wardens on suspicion of being a pit bull-type breed sparked a global campaign for his release.

The case reopened the debate on breed-specific legislation, which has been condemned as "flawed and archaic".

Hank's story made headlines around the world, including in French publication Le Monde and the Washington Post.

He even gained celebrity support in the form of X Factor host Dermot O'Leary, boxer Carl Frampton and celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stilwell.

An assessment concluded that although Hank was a pit bull terrier-type breed, the pet could be placed on the council's exemption register, thus saving him from being put down.

As part of his release conditions, Hank is to be kept on a lead and muzzled in public.

His owners, Joanne Meadows and Leonard Collins, have remained in the spotlight following his safe return.

They found themselves with a huge social media presence as thousands of people backed their fight. As part of the campaign to save Hank, they raised almost £19,000 to help pay for legal costs in fighting the case.

However, with the dog safely back at home, there has been much interest in what they intend to do with the money. They revealed yesterday they plan to take a step back by closing their social media page.

Leonard, posting on Facebook, wrote that while they would be "forever indebted" to the media for getting Hank back, he felt he and Joanne had been misrepresented as still being a couple.

"We separated last year and remained friends," he wrote. "Hank was both of ours and neither of us wanted to deprive the other of spending time with him.

"I kept from mentioning this on the Save Hank page as I didn't want to invite that sort of scrutiny into our private lives. We have both moved on and are seeing other people, so please don't be surprised if you see pics of this."

The pair also unveiled a breakdown of what they were planning to spend the funds on once they were released.

Leonard and Joanne said they had decided to give the money to individuals fighting to get their dogs returned, rather than to a charity.

They added that the money would be spent as follows:

  • £2,701 will go on solicitors' fees - a figure that they believe could increase;
  • An unknown amount will be spent on vet's bills and training for Hank. They expect this to cost more than £1,000;
  • A donation of between £2,000 and £3,000 to a campaign to save Coco the dog;
  • A donation of around £3,000 for a campaign to save Zane, another dog;
  • A donation of around £3,000 for the campaign to save Blitz, a third dog.

Leonard said: "The general consensus from the community is to give these funds to individuals fighting to get their dogs returned, rather than a charity.

"These donations will be (made) as soon as we have access to the funds, and the actual amount will depend on what their needs are at that time.

"We are committed to making sure that these families hit their targets. More donations will follow shortly.

"In case I have not made it clear enough - we still have no access to Hank's funds, and all the excess monies are being donated."

A rally organised by Hank's owners against Northern Ireland's controversial dog laws has been postponed until further notice because of the large number of people expected to attend the march.

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