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

By Rachel Martin

Published 26/07/2016

Hank with his owner Joanne Meadows
Hank with his owner Joanne Meadows
Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows at home after their dog Hank was seized by Belfast City Council
Leonard Collins with his dog Hank, who was seized by authorities amid claims that he looks like a pit bull (Leonard Collins/Joanne Meadows/PA)
Hank the dog with owner Joanne Meadows
Hank was taken from his home by dog wardens
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 as a pup

Well-wishers have raised over £16,000 towards the legal battle to save Hank - the family pet which could be destroyed due to its breed.

Efforts to save the dog - whose breed is still under question - from destruction topped the figure yesterday.

And more than 150,000 people have already put their names to a petition to save the pet.

Hank was seized by Belfast City Council after a member of the public reported him because he "looked like a pit bull".

Despite the furore, politicians have been reluctant to weigh in on the row. The Belfast Telegraph contacted dozens of Belfast councillors about the issue, but only a handful would speak out.

Hank's owners Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows set up the page just 10 days ago.

Despite hitting their initial target to raise £5,000, donations have continued to flood in.

But now the couple say they are willing to take the fight to save his life as far as the European courts and reckon it could cost as much as £15,000 to prove Hank is not a danger.

On a fundraising page - which aims to raise money towards legal fees - the couple said: "He has been condemned to die because he looks like a pitbull.

"We will do anything to save Hank, he is a much-loved part of our family. He is more than a pet.

"The best chance at returning Hank to his home is to prove that he is not dangerous, but this is costly, to do this we would have to find the money to pay for a professional opinion."

The couple also said they have not been able to see their dog since he was seized on July 14.

SDLP councillor Declan Boyle said he felt the owners should be allowed to see Hank, but was loath to get involved in the controversy.

His party colleague Patrick Convery said the council was "only following the rules".

He said: "As far as we are concerned as councillors, there's nothing we can do about it. I think we should stick with the rules and regulations."

DUP councillor Tom Haire added: "The council is only following the procedures which are laid out by the government.

"If it's the law, it's the law and you're either outside or inside of it. It's sad to see this happen to a pet, but we don't make the law."

But Green Party councillor Ross Brown said "immediate change" was needed.

He said: "I am just as devastated to see the impact that this situation has had on all concerned and I want to see Hank released.

"I have been in regular contact with the officers in the council all last week and today I have asked why it has been reported that the dog was not walked for 10 days and why after 10 days no assessment has yet been undertaken.

"Given the rightful outpouring of support for Hank and the family, I want to assure the public that council officers are under immense pressure from councillors and the public to ensure that the correct processes are followed.

"The elephant in the room in all of this, however, is the law. Until this law is overturned, every dog of a similar appearance and families owning those dogs are under threat.

"It is crucial that we demand an immediate change to the law, so that this never, ever happens again."

In a statement, the council said Hank's future will be determined according to his physical characteristics and temperament.

The statement added: "Our principal duty is protecting the health and safety of the public.

"We would like to assure those who have expressed concern about the dog's welfare that he is being well looked after and his medical needs are being met."

Belfast Telegraph

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