BELFAST, IRELAND — If you’ve been active on social media recently most certainly you’ve come across the sweet face of Hank. Hank, was recently seized by police, imprisoned and sentenced to death. His plight has caused a world wide uproar, resulting a petition with thousands of signatures for his immediate release. Hank’s only crime? He looks like a Pit Bull.
Hank’s owners, Joanne Meadows and Leonard Collins, are devastated and incensed by the fate their dog faces. They returned home one day last week to find a note on their door that Hank had been ordered removed by Belfast City Council for looking like a Pit Bull. The fact that Hank is a mixed breed and actually a Labrador/Staffordshire Bull Terrier is irrelevant, there is breed specific legislation in place and even resembling a Pit Bull is enough to warrant such seizure. According to the legislation any Pit Bull Terrier “type” dog is banned, and once seized could be ordered euthanized for their crime.
Meadows and Collins have been unable to see Hank, and were terrified that he wasn’t being properly cared for, and that his dietary needs were not being met. They’ve raised him since he was a puppy and know, for certain, that he poses no threat to public safety. It’s been admitted by those now caring for him that for days Hank was imprisoned in his cage and was not walked. Belfast Council has only recently issued a statement that he is now being properly cared for and that he has been allowed to relieve himself outside of his cage. Their reason for not allowing to see his family is they deems it a risk to the safety of those caring for him. Thus Hank spends the lions share of his days caged, not seeing those that love him most, while awaiting his critical behavioral assessment. In order to live Hank must pass this test.
The absurdity of this case has enraged the public. A social media campaign was launched with many uniting behind Meadows and Collins who’ve hired counsel and are determined to get their sweet, loving dog back. A petition garnered well over 115,000 signatures and Hank’s face has been seen in countries throughout the world. People are demanding that Hank be saved.
The uproar surrounding his seizure and treatment might very well have struck a chord with Council. After a time where they refused to acknowledge correspondence from Meadows and Collins they have finally issued a reply. A most recent statement from Belfast City Council insists that he is now being properly cared for, and states that the behavioral assessment will be conducted on Hank as scheduled. They’ve indicated there is possibility that he could be returned to his family with very strict guidelines in place should he pass their test.
Ruby, is a dog whose crime was similar to Hanks. Deemed a “Hank lookalike” Ruby was too recently seized by police for looking like a Pit Bull. The difference in these two tales, is that Ruby was returned within hours, compared to Hank’s weeks long shelter stay where he’s been deprived of any contact with his family, and spent a week without receiving a proper walk.
Ruby’s owner, Ashton Gillespie, went before a Newtownards court to fight to have her dog’s life spared. The judge in that case ordered Ruby returned after the prosecution indicated she had indeed passed her good temperament testing. Though Ruby is allowed to return home, where she belongs, her freedom does not come without a heavy price. She has been released with very stringent restrictions. Ruby is to be licensed, muzzled, and securely leashed at all times when she’s in public. Ashton was also advised that she was civilly liable should Ruby ever attack, and agreed to allowing Council to inspect Ruby at any time they deemed necessary in the future.
When asked about Hank, Ashton said, “If I was Hank’s owner I would be fighting for him with everything I could and I wouldn’t be giving up.” Hanks owner’s most certainly are not giving up. They are keeping Hank’s plight alive and present on every level of social media and are more determined than ever to bring their beloved dog home. A Just Giving Page has been started to aid the family with their legal costs. To help click here.
Though Ruby’s life has been saved, those who are following Hank’s story, are anxiously awaiting to learn news of his ultimate fate.