Save Hank: UUP leader Mike Nesbitt vows to resolve 'flawed and archaic breed-specific dog legislation'
'We don’t arrest people on the basis of how they look, but on the actions they take'
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has thrown his weight behind the Save Hank campaign.
Mr Nesbitt said if the Executive would not act on the 'outdated' banned dog legislation then his party - now in opposition - would, through a Private Member's Bill, look to repeal the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Order.
Hank's family are awaiting an assessment verdict on the breed of the dog.
In a lengthly Facebook post on the campaign page, he said: "I am trying to get this matter resolved and Hank returned to his family.
"This represents the ugly and deeply unfortunate consequences of Northern Ireland continuing to implement the flawed and archaic breed-specific legislation which we have been calling to be reviewed or scrapped for some time.
"As recently as the 6th June our Party tabled a motion to the Minister at Stormont calling on her to review the benefits of scrapping BSL. The tragedy is that if she and her predecessors had acted, this appalling situation with Hank could have been avoided.
"Of course I believe genuinely dangerous dogs shouldn’t be allowed to roam our streets or pose a danger to our young people. But from everything my Party and I have heard and researched, Hank was not such an animal.
'If the Executive continues to refuse to take action, we will' Mike Nesbitt
"In fact he was a beloved family pet who has been incarcerated because he ‘looks’ the wrong way.
"We don’t arrest people on the basis of how they look, but on the actions they take. It should be absolutely no different in the case of dogs, particularly family pets where there is no history at all of any aggression."
He continued: "The old fashioned and prescriptive thinking that all dogs of a certain breed are dangerous is incompatible for 2016.
"All the expert evidence tells us that crudely judging a dog by its DNA, instead of its actions, simply doesn’t work. In fact, as you will no doubt agree, the way a dog is brought up and treated by its owner has a far greater bearing on its behaviour than its genetic makeup.
"As such, earlier this year the Ulster Unionist Party launched a new policy paper on the important issue of animal welfare, which can be read by clicking this link, and one of our main policy recommendations was a review of BSL.
"Through a series of recent Assembly Questions my Party has been able to reveal that dozens of dogs are investigated each year, with over 240 suspected ‘banned or prohibited’ being affected over the last 4 years.
"The vast majority of these have been cleared early on, with most of those seized or voluntary surrendered dogs also being returned to their owners. That clearly illustrates why the BSL is no longer fit for purpose.
"This is an issue which the Ulster Unionist Party has now decided that if the Northern Ireland Executive continues to refuse to take action on, we will take the difficult but necessary steps to secure legislative changes ourselves. Through a Private Members Bill we may be able to secure the repeal of the Dangerous Dogs Order 1991, so we are actively pursuing this route at present."