The prisoner of Northern Ireland isn’t allowed visits. In fact, for days, he wasn’t even allowed to leave his cell.
Hank’s only crime is the way he looks. And that may carry a death sentence.
Authorities in Northern Ireland deemed Hank a pit bull and, on July 14, a battalion of police officers showed up at the door of Leonard Collins and Joanne Meadows in Belfast.
The couple wasn’t home at the time. So officers seized Hank and left a note.
Meadows and Collins haven’t seen him since.
“We are both struggling,” a distraught Collins tells The Dodo. “We’re very stressed. We want nothing more than Hank to come home.”
Since Hank was taken, more than 260,00 people from around the world have signed a petition calling for his release. Collins and Meadows have launched a legal battle to free him.
But in Northern Ireland, under the country’s dangerous breed legislation, being a pit bull is a death sentence. Even if Hank probably isn’t a full pit bull. Collins says he’s part Staffordshire bull terrier and part Labrador. In any case, the designation “pit bull” has proven a loose and arbitrary one, often resulting in the deaths of dogs for no other reason than the way they look.
The most maddening part for Collins and Meadow may be the absence of information.
“They are now refusing to give me any info regarding Hank,” Collins says. “Nothing at all. Everything has to go through solicitors.”
The only thing he knows is that the city council has determined Hank to be a pit bull.
Belfast City Council didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment, but sent The Dodo a statement saying Hank is being “well looked after, and his medical and dietary needs are continuing to be met.”
His keepers admit Hank wasn’t being walked in his first days in their care, but “he is now being walked, with staff hoping to continue this on a daily basis.”
But Hank will not be seeing his family.
“Visits from dog owners are not permitted,” the statement reads. “This is to help with the settling in process, and to ensure the security of all those animals in our care, as well as the health and safety of staff.”
That leaves Collins and Meadows with sleepless nights and a dog-shaped hole in their lives.
All of it is lost on a lonesome dog in a kennel who doesn’t know anything about breeds and regulations. Just that he’s been torn from his family.
If Hank’s ship comes in, it will be on a tide of public support.
And home is where he belongs.