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Outcry over Hank's seizure leads to council rethink over its dangerous dogs policy

By Cate McCurry

Published 05/08/2016

Hank is welcomed into The Barbers Chair salon in Belfast
Hank is welcomed into The Barbers Chair salon in Belfast
Leonard Collins with Hank this week

Belfast City Council is to review how it handles so-called dangerous dog cases following the public furore over their seizure of a family pet.

The move has been welcomed by Leonard Collins, whose pet dog was seized by council officials more than three weeks ago following a complaint from a member of the public.

Leonard said he doesn't want any other dog to suffer like Hank.

While Hank was found to be part pit bull, he was not deemed a danger and was released to his owners Joanne Meadows and Leonard on Tuesday.

Hank's case attracted worldwide attention and has sparked the review on how the council investigates potential dangerous dogs.

The move was announced by Belfast Alliance councillor, Sian O'Neill who said that Belfast City Council (BCC) confirmed a "full evaluation" of procedures and policies will now take place.

"As soon as the well-publicised case regarding Hank was resolved, Alliance immediately asked for a robust review into the council's actions to be carried out," she said.

"I'm delighted the council has acted so quickly in response to our request.

"While the current laws are extremely outdated, as a council we also have a responsibility to assess our own actions, seeing what lessons we can learn for similar future cases.

"Like many across Belfast and Northern Ireland, I was shocked at how an outdated law meant this family came close to losing a pet that has since been found to have no threat to the public.

"While public safety is vital and Alliance continues to value the excellent work undertaken by our staff in the field of animal welfare, there is always room for improvement. I look forward to hearing the outcome of this review."

Leonard and Joanne are behind a major campaign to get the controversial Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) changed.

A Save Hank campaign reached people across the world, and the dog has become a local celebrity.

Leonard believes that current legislation gives councils "arbitrary power" which he said needs to be changed.

"The council obviously don't want a repeat of what happened to Hank," he said. "It's excellent they are reviewing this and I will be very happy to see a change to the council policy and a change to the legislation itself.

"My problem from the start was that they were using this excuse of duty of care to the public and hands being tied by the legislation.

"But the legislation doesn't state the council has to act in a draconian fashion, it allows them to.

"It's the policies they implemented that are the problem so I'm happy to see them take a decision to review their policy.

"But the whole legislation needs to be changed - no council should have the power to act the way BCC did.

"It's because of all this exposure and pressure they have acted. Hank is lucky but there should be no more like him and we don't want that to happen again.

"I'm not a dog expert but I know the legislation doesn't work."

Meanwhile, Hank has been settling in very well back at his home in east Belfast and yesterday enjoyed a trip to the barber's where he lapped up plenty of attention.

Belfast Telegraph

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