An east Belfast man expects an online petition started to save his dog - which was seized by Belfast City Council for being a suspected pit bull - to tonight gain its 100,000th signature.
Leonard Collins was at work last Thursday when Belfast City Council officials and police officers seized his dog ‘Hank’ after it was reported to the council as being a pit bull, a breed banned in Northern Ireland.
Mr Collins said he was told at the time he got Hank that he was a Staffie-Labrador cross and said that other dog experts had confirmed this to him.
And a Justgiving page, started after the pup was seized “to pay for legal costs to save Hank’s life” has raised more than £12,000.
“He is still away from us being held somewhere,” said Leonard.
“We have been told officially told by the council that we cannot see him.”
The 32-year-old Ulster University student said assessment of his beloved animal will be carried out “probably next week”.
He said: “There are no DNA tests, no blood tests, it as mainly to do with measurements.”
“Joanne (ex-girl friend who also helps with Hank) and I are amazed at how the campaign we started amongst family and friends has taken off,” he said.
“It has grown beyond belief. We did not expect this at all.”
The online petition started by Mr Collins says: “On the 14th July 2016, Hank was taken from my home by 8 police officers and 4 dog wardens. He has been condemned to die because he looks like a pitbull. Our only legal recourse is to fight this in the courts. We will do anything to save Hank, he is a much loved part of our family. He is more than a pet. The best chance at returning Hank to his home is to prove that he is not dangerous, this is costly due to the need for professional opinion. This petition is to raise awareness of Hank and other dogs like him that facing death due to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).”
A Belfast City Council spokesman said: “The council has a statutory duty in relation to the enforcement of the Dogs (NI) Order 1983 as amended. Our principal duty relating to this particular legislation is protecting the health and safety of the public, a duty carried out across the city by our dedicated and experienced officers.
“The dog known as Hank has been taken in for assessment, and no decisions have been made in relation to his case at this stage. Our staff have been in touch with Hank’s owners; we will keep them informed about the outcome of this assessment, and it would be inappropriate to comment further on this particular case while this process is ongoing. We would like to assure those who have expressed concern about the dog’s welfare that he is being well looked after and his medical needs are being met.
“In cases of this nature, a determination on whether a dog is of a breed banned under the Dogs (NI) Order 1983 as amended is made based on the animal’s physical characteristics and temperament.
“Once a determination has been made, enforcing authorities have three options – if the dog is not a banned breed, it is returned to its owner; if the dog is deemed to be of a banned breed, and judged to present a danger to the public, the matter is referred to the courts for a magistrate to decide whether a destruction order should be issued; or, if the dog is deemed to be of a banned breed but judged not to be dangerous, it may be, with court approval, placed on an exemption list and returned to its owner, with conditions attached which the owner must comply with.”