‘We will take fight to save dog all the way to Europe if we have to’

An internet campaign has been launched to save Hank
An internet campaign has been launched to save Hank

The owner of a dog seized by authorities amid claims it looks like a pit bull has said he is willing to take the fight to save his life as far as the European courts.

Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows’ campaign to secure the release of their beloved Hank has won support from around the world.

An online petition attracted around 120,000 signatures since his seizure last week, and public donations to a legal fighting fund are approaching £15,000.

They insist he is a friendly and boisterous Staffie/Labrador cross, but dog wardens from Belfast City Council have told the couple they think he might be a pit bull - a banned breed.

If that assessment is upheld, and a subsequent court order for Hank’s destruction issued, Mr Collins pledges to use any legal avenue available to challenge not only the decision, but also the very basis of the legislation used to determine if a dog is dangerous.

The 33-year student from Belfast said he would fight for the rights of all dog owners and was prepared to take the case to Europe.

“Neither of us are sleeping, we are not really eating - our routines are totally out the window,” he said.

“It’s completely turned our lives upside down.

“The only thing that has kept us going has been support from other people.

“Every time we look at Facebook or Twitter there are hundreds, thousands of messages and comments every single day, people showing their support.”

He added: “This just really started off about Hank. Neither of us knew much about the legislation.

“We knew a bit, not much, but with the support we have been given, and the help we have been given, we realise it’s not just for Hank, it’s also because people feel very, very strongly against BSL - breed-specific legislation is one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation in the UK.

“I couldn’t in all good conscience accept people’s help and just purely only be concerned about Hank.”

Mr Collins vowed not to give up on his dog.

“There are plenty of challenges open to us,” he said.

“There is the High Court if it goes that far, our solicitor has even talked about the European court.”

Asked if he was prepared to pursue the case as far as Europe, he replied: “Absolutely.”