Northern Ireland

Hank the dog to be returned to owners subject to court approval

Hank the dog Image copyright Joanne Meadows
Image caption A council spokesperson said the dog had been assessed by an "appropriate expert to be a pitbull terrier type"

A dog that was seized by Belfast City Council for "looking like a pitbull" is to be returned to his owners pending court approval.

Two-year-old Hank was removed by dog wardens earlier this month and taken for testing.

A council spokesperson said he had been assessed by an "appropriate expert to be a pitbull terrier type".

However, it has been recommended that he be placed on the council's exemption register.

They said that any behavioural issues can be addressed with proper training.

Image copyright Joanne Meadows
Image caption One of Hank's owners, Leonard Collins, told the BBC he was "really delighted" with the news

"It is anticipated that this matter will be brought through the courts as quickly as possible, following agreement from all parties on the recommended conditions."

Hank was seized from his east Belfast home on Thursday 14 July by police officers and dog wardens.

The council said concerned members of the public had contacted them raising concerns about a welfare issue - which did not relate to Hank's owners.

'Training'

Following his assessment, they issued a statement on Thursday to say Hank had displayed some "behavioural issues", but an expert had decided these could be addressed through additional training.

One of Hank's owners, Leonard Collins, told the BBC he was "really delighted" with the news that his dog was likely to be returned to him.

He said: "Hank is in no way a danger to the public, as we have always known, but we were afraid of what might happen to him.

Image copyright Joanne Meadows
Image caption The council said concerned members of the public had contacted them raising concerns about a welfare issue - not relating to Hank's owners

"I am concerned that they (the council) have decided that he is a pitbull, but we will do everything that we can to get him back on Tuesday."

Mr Collins said he and others would continue to campaign for a change to breed-specific dog legislation in Northern Ireland.

Hank's seizure prompted an online petition to have him returned, which was signed electronically by more than 280,000 people - including celebrities.

Media outlets from as far away as America also picked up on his story.

If Hank is returned to his owners, he will become the 12th dog to be placed on the exemption register under the Dogs (NI) Order 1983 since 2011.

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