Northern Ireland

Family pet seized for 'looking like a pit bull', owners claim

Hank Image copyright Joanne Meadows
Image caption Hank is micro-chipped, neutered and has a dog licence, his family believe he is a Staffordshire terrier cross breed

A family pet has been seized from its home in east Belfast for "looking like a pit bull", his owners have claimed.

In a statement to the BBC, Belfast City Council confirmed that the dog, who is called Hank, had been taken.

It said the council had a "statutory duty" to enforce the Dogs (NI) Order 1983.

According to the statement, Hank is being assessed and a council spokesperson said it would be "inappropriate" to comment further.

"We would like to assure those who have expressed concern about the dog's welfare that he is being well looked after and his needs are being met", the spokesperson added.

'Dangerous Dog'

Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows, have had Hank for almost two years, since he was a puppy.

On Thursday, Mr Collins, who is a computer science student at Ulster University, returned home from his placement to find Hank gone.

A warrant was pinned to his front door. It said Hank had been taken into the care of Belfast City Council under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Mr Collins said: "My dad walks Hank during the day when I'm at my placement and he called to tell me that he wasn't there.

Image copyright Joanne Meadows
Image caption Belfast City Council said that while Hank was being assessed his needs were being met and he was being "well looked after"

"I rushed straight home to find the warrant on my door and Hank gone.

"A neighbour told me that eight police officers and four dog wardens showed up to take Hank away.

"I can't fathom why anyone would report him. He lazes about for 90% of the day and wants to play the other 10%.

"He is a very playful dog and is part of our family, my nieces and nephews adore him and my dad loves walking him.

'Affectionate'

"He's extremely affectionate, we've never had any issues with aggression."

Mr Collins said he believes Hank, who is neutered, insured and micro-chipped, is a cross between a Staffordshire bull terrier and a Labrador.

He claimed he and his family are not allowed to know where Hank is being held, nor are they allowed to visit him.

He also said that the dog warden told him there were no problems or complaints about the dog's behaviour - only how he looks.

Image copyright Joanne Meadows
Image caption Hank was seized on Thursday

"When I spoke to the dog warden they said we had two options, either sign him over, which would most likely result in him being put down, or to fight the order through the courts", Mr Collins said.

"Hank has a skin condition and he doesn't have his medication with him, we don't know where he is or what's happening to him."

Mr Collins said he hopes that breed-specific laws in Northern Ireland will be changed so dogs can be judged on their behaviour.

"In Northern Ireland a dog can be deemed a pit bull because of its measurements - but that doesn't mean it is one", he said.

"If Hank's measurements fell into a certain category he will most likely be put down.

Image copyright Joanne Meadows
Image caption Under Article 25(a) of the Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 some types of dog are deemed inherently dangerous

"The law is different in England and Wales."

Under Article 25(a) of the Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 some types of dog, including pit bulls, are deemed inherently dangerous and can be destroyed.