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Wait goes on for Hank's owners as council says they can't see beloved dog yet

Send us pictures of your dog along with a message to welcome Hank home to digital.editorial@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

By Cate McCurry

Published 30/07/2016

Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows with picture of Hank
Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows with picture of Hank

The owners of Hank the dog have still not been allowed to see their beloved pet despite being told that he will be allowed to return home next week.

Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows are being forced to wait another four days before they are reunited with the dog - almost three weeks after he was seized by council officials.

But Mr Collins said he will press Belfast City Council over the restrictions in a bid to see Hank before Tuesday's court hearing formalises his handover.

The council concluded Hank - now Northern Ireland's most famous dog - was "a pit bull terrier-type" breed, but that he could be placed on an exemption register as he was not a risk to the public.

On Thursday his owners were delighted when an expert adjudged the dog was no danger to people, and were told their lovable pet could return home.

Mr Collins said his solicitor contacted the council yesterday, and he received the exemption order, but with no other details about visiting the dog.

He said: "We did ask to see him but I doubt the council will allow it because the reasons they gave before were nothing to do with the dog's temperament. It was based on the distress of the dog and their security. I don't agree with it and I will push it as I want to see him, and I would go and visit him at any time."

He also hit out at the controversial breed-specific legislation responsible for the dog's seizure, which has been branded "flawed and outdated".

The owners have organised a rally at Stormont next Sunday to raise awareness of the issue. Celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stilwell has thrown her weight behind the campaign to change our dangerous dog laws and said she would be willing to fly here to meet politicians.

She said: "It will take a lot of brave politicians to stand up and make a change.

"The only thing that will work is holding the owners accountable for their dogs' behaviour. The current legislation is laughable and it needs to be completely done away with. Politicians need to get experts in and listen to them.

"I would be 100% willing to come over to give advice on changing the law and what will truly prevent dog bites."

Politicians from the main parties are united in their calls to review the current legislation.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said: "All the expert evidence tells us that crudely judging a dog by its DNA, instead of its actions, simply doesn't work."

And DUP MP Gavin Robinson described the law that governed Hank's case, and those of other dogs across the province, as "bigoted".

The SDLP's Patsy McGlone said we should target those who "partake in the distribution of prohibited breeds". While Sinn Fein said it was prepared to revisit the legislation as a "one size fits approach may not be suitable" in all cases.

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