Not long ago, we told you about poor Hank, a young Staffy mix abducted by police officers who left a note on the door for the family to read when they returned to their Northern Ireland home. He was sentenced to die because of his appearance, and his family wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye. But because of the mass amount of public outcry, Hank has been released and is now home.
All pit bull-type dogs are banned in Northern Ireland, so his owners, exes Joanne Meadows and Leonard Collins, who share custody of Hank, likely knew that having him wasn’t allowed. But he had never been a danger to anyone, and it was only because a meddlesome neighbor reported him to police.
Officers in riot gear arrived one day when no one was home. They broke in and took Hank. His parents weren’t allowed to know where he was, or even to visit one final time before his innocent life was taken.
So they did everything they could to raise awareness and win their case. A Facebook page was launched to spread the word and keep supporters updated, a petition was created to send to the courts (which garnered an astonishing 300,000 signatures), and a fundraiser page was made to help with legal fees.
“I’ve been worried he might have thought we’d abandoned him and he’ll never understand what we have been through to get him back,” Joanne told Belfast Live.
I found out last week that Hank was very likely going to be placed on the exemption register and sent home, but didn’t want to count those chickens before they hatched. The final decision was set to take place in court on Tuesday morning, and I awaited the big day nearly as anxiously as his own family. I could hardly wait to share the pictures and videos celebrating his triumphant homecoming.
Even though the court ruled in their favor, Joanne and Leonard were disappointed by the hoops they still had to jump through. They need to keep Hank muzzled any time he is in public, and have to obtain special insurance for him.
“It seemed like we were back to square one. And for more than an hour we had to battle to find an insurer who would take him on. In the end Dogs Trust gave us a contract and he is now insured,” Leonard explained.
“At 1 pm we were ready to go and get him, but then we were told he was being transported from another facility to Belfast and the journey would take two hours.”
After what must have seemed like an eternity, they arrived and caught the first glimpse of their pup in three weeks.
“I’ve felt sick all day with the fear and worry that this might not come right and how he might react when he saw us. But it has and he’s here and I honestly couldn’t be any happier,” Joanne said.
Two enormous bags containing over a hundred treats, toys, and letters of encouragement sent to the Belfast City Council were given to Leonard and Joanne when they left with Hank at 4 pm yesterday.
“I cried bucket loads and laughed the moment I saw him and he was clearly excited to see us and pulled like mad to reach us. Then it was full-on cuddles and loves. We got our boy back and I can hardly believe it,” Joanne said.
“I feel so tearful and happy and emotional and thankful that good sense happened in the end but I really feel this situation never needed to happen. No one needed to come into Leonard’s home and take our dog.”
Now they are waging an even bigger war against breed specific legislation so no other family has to go through the ordeal they have.
“Without the help we had from the public and the media we believe Hank would be dead by now, put down for being a mongrel whose blood line includes a bit of pit bull,” Leonard noted.
“We want to help other people who are facing the situation as us, or who will face it the future. The stress of feeling helpless has been horrendous and we just want to get to normal.
“The last three weeks have been really awful for both Joanne and myself but probably more so for our beautiful dog Hank, although we were surprised today to see how well he looked.
“We worried about him day and night. We couldn’t sleep or eat and not being able to call with him, see him, comfort him in a strange place and strange situation made matters much worse.”
“I was worried he might be a bit subdued and anxious but he seems fine and he is very distracted with all the presents people have sent him, especially the squeaky ones. After all, he is still just a big pup and he likes to play,” Joanne said.
“Now that we have got Hank back we will continue the battle to challenge the breed specific legislation that led to our gentle big pet being removed from us.
“We want to thank everyone who has helped us, every single person who has sent a text message, Facebook message or Tweet, everyone who has looked at the donation site.
“We want to thank all those people, nearly 1,600 who donated hard earned cash to help us. The £19,000 raised will be used to fight BSL.”
A video back from when Hank was just a rascally wee puppy. Who could admonish him and want to stop this when he was just so stinkin’ cute??
UPDATE 8/3/16, 2:00 pm: Darla is also going home!!
One of the fights going on now comes from Jenny Armer in the UK. She is desperately trying to save her Darla from being killed because of how she looks:
Our beautiful three-year-old Sharpei-Staffy cross, Darla, got taken from us by the police on 16th July because she was reported to be of the pit bull breed! ?
She is my oldest daughter’s dog who has ADHD and autism. Darla is her best friend and she has a connection with her that she has with no one else. ?
Darla being gone is causing her so much upset, as well as all of the family. She’s one of the softest dogs you’ll ever meet and we all just want her home. She has NEVER bitten or nipped anyone!
The only way we can get her home is to fight for her in court, which is going to be costly. This is why I am asking for any help anyone can offer to help raise funds to get her back.
Every single penny is greatly appreciated and I cannot thank everyone enough for their support.
All receipts and invoices of what the money is spent on will go up on the Facebook group HELP get Darla home. ?
If there was to be any money left over I will ensure it goes to help other families that are going through what we are!
We also have a petition page of everyone could sign and share it that would be brilliant ☺️
Thank you so much in advance.
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1785441448351169/
Just giving page: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/jenny-armer
Love Jenny ????????