Emotional reunion for Hank and owners as judge frees pet from death row
Weeks after council seized their dog for appearing to be a banned breed, a Belfast couple are overjoyed to have him home. Although an expert said he was a pit bull terrier type - currently outlawed in Northern Ireland - it was ruled that he could be released.
There was applause at Belfast Magistrates' Court after a judge ordered Hank's exemption from the list of banned breeds.
Owners Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows spoke of their relief to have him back. Joanne said: "I missed him so much."
Earlier, she fought back tears after Judge Ken Nixon confirmed that the dog would not face destruction.
Hank was seized from his east Belfast home on July 14 by a team of eight police officers and four dog wardens.
The move followed a complaint from a member of the public. When officers attended, they identified the dog as a potential pit bull. It showed signs of "agitated behaviour", the court hearing was told.
Hank's owners were not present, but he was seized after a warrant was executed.
It prompted an enormous online campaign, with almost 300,000 people signing a petition to save the animal.
The pet was examined by canine behaviour expert Peter Tallack last week.
He concluded that while the dog was a pit bull terrier type and his behaviour was "boisterous", there was no evidence that he posed a threat.
In court yesterday, a lawyer for Belfast City Council applied to have Hank spared from destruction. Judge Nixon was told that the pet has already been microchipped and neutered and would be insured.
Supporters in the public gallery applauded as the judge agreed to make the order to allow Hank to be returned home.