Expert who helped condemn Lennox will assess pet dog Hank seized by Belfast council
The same expert whose opinion helped condemn Lennox the dog to death in Belfast four years ago is to carry out the assessment on another pet impounded on suspicion of being a dangerous breed, it can be revealed.
Leonard Collins, owner of Hank, the two-year-old canine seized from his home by council officials last Friday, says he is "very concerned" at the appointment of Peter Tallack, given his involvement in the Lennox case, which ended in its court-sanctioned destruction.
He added: "There was a lot of comment after the Lennox saga, which ended with the dog being put to sleep by the council in July 2012 after the Court of Appeal upheld a County Court order for the dog's destruction.
"I don't want to make this a mud-slinging contest with the council. I know they are just doing their job and I don't want to jump to any conclusions about what Mr Tallack will say after his assessment."
Mr Tallack - who described Lennox as "one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had ever come across" - was a Metropolitan Police officer for 32 years, 26 of them as a dog handler.
Leonard, who is determined not only to fight to save Hank's life, but also to challenge the legislation that governs dangerous dogs in Northern Ireland, says he has been told by the council that Mr Tallack may carry out the assessment on Hank next week, with his verdict being relayed to its owners the following week.
Leonard (33), a pure science student, and his then partner Joanne Matthews (33) bought Hank about two years ago after being told by a friend that some pups were for sale.
"I think we paid something like £200-£250 for him. When we went to view the pups he had a funny waddle, a strange sort of sideways bounce that marked him out as different from the rest.
"When we thought of getting a dog people recommended all sorts of breeds to us but I know nothing about dogs and the breed didn't seem that important to me. Hank was described to us as a Staffie-Labrador cross.
"With hindsight perhaps I should have questioned the owner a bit more, but it really was something that never crossed my mind. I don't believe Hank is a pit bull, but someone with more experience might think that there is a tiny bit of pit bull somewhere back in his pedigree."
Leonard says that when Hank was a pup he was very excitable, always on the go, but as he got older he became lazier, spending a large part of his day just lying around with occasional bursts of energy.
"At times he is extremely affectionate with me and will lie beside me. At other times he just wants his own space. To me he is a friend, I don't treat him as a pet. He slept on my bed every night.
"I have always been careful when friends visit me. Some people like dogs, some don't. Hank is very demanding of attention when a visitor comes to the house. He wants that person to play with him and wants to give him a good sniff.
"We have tried to train that out of him. He was responding very well to training and very quickly picks up tricks like rolling over, giving me his paw, fetching things, sitting and staying on command."
Leonard believes part of Hank's problem is that he is a big dog.
"If someone goes past the house and see a big dog jumping up and down and barking they might get the impression that he is dangerous," he said.
"If he was a little dog they would pay little attention to him.
"The funny thing is that even if he got out he wouldn't do anything. He is even afraid of cats.
"My nieces and nephews are around him all the time and he is fine.
"When I take him out he is always on a leash.
"When he was younger - until he was about one - I used to take him to a secluded park and if there was no one around I would let him off the lead to try to train him to come on command or sit to order.
"I keep him on a leash now, not only because it is the law but also because I don't want to risk him running away and perhaps getting knocked down."
Leonard revealed that an online petition to save Hank had now gathered 100,000 signatures and a crowd-funding online campaign to pay potential legal costs had reached £13,000.
"My priority is saving Hank but the support that has emerged for our campaign gives us the perfect opportunity to challenge the breed specific legislation in Northern Ireland.
"I could not in all conscience accept the support given to us and not be concerned about the wider issue of how the law here works."