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Who is Hank and What Happened
How Could This Happen?
The Seizure and Destruction Order Should Never Have Been Issued – But It Did, And Things Got Even Worse
What is the Consequences of Extended Kennelling?
The Double Standard Towards Hank Whilst Incarcerated
The Solutions Is Obvious
What Hank’s Family Are Asking
Please Do Not Waste a Moment in Supporting Hank – Here’s How

Who is Hank and what happened?

Hank-nHank is a Neo Mastiff pup owned by a hard-working family, who have had him since he was a young 3 month pup. This breed is known to be a loyal, gentle giant though as juveniles they are often clumsy and goofy and take some time to learn how to manage their size. The affable Disney characters of “Goofy” or “Pluto” often come to mind, when thinking of this type of breed.

Hank-mHank is very loved. He went everywhere with his family, has been around kids his whole life and loved playing with other dogs and the neighbourhood kids too. He got a commendation certificate for good behaviour at dog-school. He had never been impounded, or caused a problem in his community.

Hank-hHank was involved in an incident where a local child was injured in October 2016. The incident occurred with a number of witnesses present at a neighbourhood gathering. Hank had been playing with some other dogs present, having a good time.  When a local little girl asked to pat Hank, his owner agreed and kept Hank beside her whilst she did.  The brief moment of contact where Hank appeared to nudge the child was not observed by any witnesses and nobody realised anything was amiss until the child started crying.  The contact did cause injury and the child required stitches and surgery due to the location and nature of the injury to her cheek. There was no malice or aggression observed and all witnesses agreed – as did the child’s mother – it was simply an unfortunate accident.

Hank-fMoreton Bay Regional Council were obliged to investigate given a minor and a dog was involved in an incident. Following the accident, the child continued to visit Hank’s home to play even as early as one week after the accident. Life largely continued on happily for Hank, his family and a tight knit neighbourhood. Moreton Bay Regional Council proceeded to declare Hank a dangerous dog (“DD”) under Qld’s Animal Management (Cats and Dogs Act) 2008, which meant he was allowed to stay with his family like a regular pet dog but now with some additional conditions. With all the evidence, medical records and photos, Council still did not elect to pursue destruction under the Act.  Though Hank had never been involved in an incident before or had caused previous concern, Council did insist on the conditions so he would need to wear a muzzle when in public as a precaution. Despite two internal review processes at the request of Hank’s family to appeal the declaration, which is a standard option available in such a circumstance, Moreton Bay Regional Council upheld their decision at appeals and again reaffirmed his declaration without destruction.

Hank-bHank’s family did cooperate with his conditions, investing significant time and money to comply with all statutory conditions that came with the declaration, including to have him wear a muzzle when in public.

Other than a seemingly minor fall out between the children in the weeks after, it still came as a shock when it was later revealed that in the new year the mother of the child approached local Councillors and the Mayor requesting Hank to be removed from the street. When learning of this, her change of heart came as a big shock to Hank’s family given things had largely continued as normal, with them visiting Hank’s home on a number of occasions, and no further incidents whatsoever. Hank’s family had been forced to continually respond to a number of complaints from an unidentified person in the street that Council confirmed were unsubstantiated but still they never thought something more sinister was occurring in the background. Tensions increased in the street with the child’s mother allegedly becoming confrontational towards Hank’s family and other neighbours.

Despite the drama happening around them, Hank and his family were complying with the conditions and without incident. Council officers conducted a number of inspections and confirmed compliance each time, including in phone calls to them.  No further incidents or complaints occurred.

I based my recommendation [when investigating the original incident] on Community Safety and put measures in place that whilst Hank was in a public place he should be muzzled. I had no concerns in how Hank was being kept as Nathan and Tammy were very responsible pet owners and neighbours…

Quote by original Investigating Officer from MBRC to spokesperson for Hank’s family, 31 December 2017

But then, shockingly and without warning – reminiscent of double jeopardy – Council arrived at Hank’s home in May 2017 without his family present and seized Hank, leaving behind paperwork for his owners to advise they were simultaneously seeking a destruction order for Hank.  This was 7 months after the original accident!

Council advised Hank’s family that their reason to seize Hank at that time was because his family had failed to comply with his desexing condition. Hank’s family have always maintained that they recall being told by Council that the due date for that final compliance was due later than that date, and certainly not due by the date Hank was seized. Therefore, it is alleged that Hank was effectively seized based on misinformation of his desexing not being due yet.

It is understood the reason for issuing a destruction order also isn’t clear as no subsequent incidents or complaints had occurred by the time he was seized, 7 months after the original accident. Rather than destruction, the Act provides for a fine to be issued if a regular dog fails to be desexed…not destruction.

Where there is evidence that animal owners are not complying with dangerous dog declaration requirements, or where a dangerous dog represents an unacceptable risk to community safety, council must take appropriate steps to prevent a reoccurring attack,” the spokesman said.

Courier Mail article quoting unnamed spokesperson from Moreton Bay Regional Council, 3 January 2018

Claim: Not Complying
All other compliance conditions were met and confirmed. So if indeed this alleged failure to comply was based on the last desexing condition Hank’s owners still had to complete (which Hank’s family have always maintained Council had told them it wasn’t due yet), this statement is all the more odd when, even if the allowed time had elapsed, the Act simply provides for the issuing of a non-compliance fine (both s 70 and s 81) – not an automatic death sentence. 

Claim: Unacceptable Risk to the Community
How was the conclusion arrived at, that Hank – after no other issues or causes for concern, and despite complying with his DD conditions as approved by Council many months prior – was he suddenly considered an unacceptable risk to community safety?  After 7 months?

This action demonstrates that a council may be willing and ‘able’ to commence seizing and destroying any regulated dog in the region (and any future declared animals) without just cause.  It was later identified at a QCAT hearing that “political” influences triggered the sudden “review” of Hank’s declaration before Council seized Hank and pursued his death.

It is frightening to think one council can be allowed to destroy pets using an Act in this way that intends destruction as a last resort in the most serious of cases, and despite owners effectively complying with conditions and safely managing their pet (which is frequently checked and confirmed at regular inspections by council), and with no further incidents or demonstration of risk – all dogs are therefore vulnerable to unjustified actions such as these. The witnesses present on the evening claim they have never been interviewed by Council still to this day and allowed to relay their observed version of events and events since. It is further alleged that has not been established and proven conclusively what caused the injury, being a single wound, as the moment of contact was not observed by any witnesses, including the mother.

It is of great concern if a local government allows the inappropriate influence of vexatious complaints and Councillors to influence the fair administration of a QLD Act. Impounding Hank and incurring significant expenses to pursue these actions through lengthy court processes is unjust and should not be allowed to persist. Not only has Hank’s case shown vastly unfair actions can be attempted by councils but also the animals themselves are then at risk in incarcerated conditions so restrictive and harmful for such an extended period as demanded by lengthy tribunal appeals, that it is akin to be a form of bullying to put pressure, stress and financial burden on dog owners at the expense of an animal’s suffering.  Actions like these are exhausting personally and financially and is likely to unfairly discourage animal owners from pursuing further external appeals, as is their legal right.

As long as the photos are sealed [the council] will continue to release statements that the injury was horrific as no one can see the photos including the media. Again I have seen the photos prior to them being sealed and they are not horrific, the size of a 20 cent piece” and “If this was a horrific attack then there would be more injuries to her face, this was not the case.

Quote from witness, present at the time of the incident in October 2016

There is no reason Hank should have been seized by Moreton Bay Regional Council. They had approved him to stay with his owners under certain conditions and [the owners] were complying, willingly.  This approval continued successfully for 6 months, right throughout multiple Council inspections confirming compliance.  There were no further complaints or concern about his behaviour.  There was still time left for him to be desexed and he continued to be kept as required in his council-approved enclosure and muzzled in public.  There is no justification to suddenly seize and destroy him.

Quote by original Investigating Officer from MBRC to spokesperson for Hank’s family, 1 January 2018

How could this happen?

The Act states that a declaration for a dangerous dog can be made if it has “seriously attacked, or acted in a way that caused fear”.  A menacing dog is almost the same except “that the attack was not serious”.

For most pet owners, it is a surprise to learn that the Act is surprisingly broad in the parameters for which a dog can be potentially declared dangerous. We learn through Hank’s situation that “attack” can even cover accidents and causes of fear is arguably a subjective experience in itself, frequently unexpected to read by the uninitiated. Whether one disagrees or otherwise that Hank’s declaration in the first place was justified, he was investigated and an outcome to declare was applied. The Act does not require all dogs declared dangerous be destroyed, hence Scheduled conditions exist. Its reversal in Hank’s case is not justified.

In addition to the ambiguity, situations of personal grievances, neighbourhood disputes and inappropriate political influence further allow the potential for individuals or public service employees to pressure and influence actions by councils, putting all dogs owners at risk of vexatious, unsubstantiated and nuisance claims. Sadly, the consequence of a case like this extends to a matter of life and death for Hank – a much loved family dog with no history prior or since, no indication of future threat or danger and many, many supporters that know him.

The original investigating officer from Moreton Bay Regional Council, continues to support Hank and his family on a Facebook group set up for supporters, saying:

…it is really disappointing to have heard such news. Animal Owners have been very compliant with the Councils [home conditions] decision and have acted above and beyond the required conditions for the keeping of a Declared Dangerous Dog (DD)…

…I believe Hank was seized before [his desexing date was due]….

…I am aware of other DD Dogs that still live within our MBRC region that I personally believe are more of a threat or risk to our Community than what Hank is…

…The action and decision made initially I believe was fair and just. The action MBRC have taken is unfair and fear based…

‘Save Hank the Neo Mastiff. #savehanktheneomastiff’ Facebook Group,
24 December 2017

The seizure and destruction order should never have been issued and it shouldn’t have progressed further – but it did, and things got worse…

Behind all of the trauma of the rescinded home conditions and mis-handled seizure by Moreton Bay Regional Council, Hank has been impounded since May 2017 in RSPCA Dakabin’s facility who have the contract to run the pound for this council.  Despite originally allowing Hank’s owners to visit with reasonable flexibility, including weekends, Council has continually reduced the allowable days, times and frequency to the point they are now restricted to inflexible, narrow time slots on weekdays – something increasingly difficult for them to do around their day-to-day work. After all, the reality is that life goes on for the rest of the world whilst Hank’s family must continue to provide for themselves and their other (human) children.

Vets are not allowed contact with Hank to treat his current ailments. 

Moreton Bay Regional Council revoked their agreement to allow Hank’s family an independent behavioural assessment in the weeks leading up to an August hearing when his family was seeking an external review at QCAT overturn his death order.

Hank’s carers at RSPCA Dakabin are confusingly forbidden by Moreton Bay Regional Council to take Hank out of his enclosure to exercise him in the designated approved area…but they are allowed contact with him inside his enclosure. Therefore, Hank’s owner is the only person permitted by Moreton Bay Regional Council to be allowed to take him out so he can receive the basic essentials of care to move and exercise and, due to very restrictive access times and frequencies allowed to his owner, this means he only sees grass twice a week for 45 minutes at a time. If his owner is unwell or unable to attend, Hank simply goes without this basic right yet rare opportunity to exhibit natural behaviour whilst enjoying fresh air and sunshine.

Hank-conditionHank’s “home” for the last 8 months is a 1x2m pen vulnerable to the elements – when it rains and storms his cage becomes wet and he suffers from the effects frequently damp skin brings.  Hank’s family were forbidden to take anymore photographs after those taken in June 2017 showing infections, new since his incarceration and they were closely supervised at all times by Council representatives when they do visit Hank. Hank has suffered from kennel cough, and continues to suffer from muscle wastage, infections, inflammation in his limbs and pus-filled lesions. Hank has needed to be on antibiotics constantly to manage the inevitable medical conditions caused by constant suppression and sub-standard conditions. It is evident even to the layman with little knowledge of basic animal husbandry that the facilities RSPCA Dakabin have are only for temporary housing and they are not equipped to humanely house an animal like this for extended periods of time.

Hank-aNeo’s are known as a sensitive breed that needs their family to thrive. Young dogs need regular exercise to ensure proper development and large breeds are not finished growing until they are between three and four years of age. Hank is also in a critical socialisation period and is being robbed of his chance to continue to mature into a safe dog. Naturally, Hank is now not only sick due to excessively strict conditions stipulated by Moreton Bay Regional Council but he is depressed and stressed as any animal, or human, would be in such a situation.

What is the consequences of extended kennelling?

It is well documented the effect of extended kennelling on dogs.

…. confined in very small, barren cages that do not provide sufficient space for the animal. They may never be allowed out of the cage, leading to psychological and medical problems. Dogs and puppies are unable to express normal behaviours in such confinement (they have no space to exercise, play or explore) and this can lead to the development of repetitive behaviours, also called ‘stereotypies’, and other psychological problems. Repetitive behaviours are one the most serious indicators of long-term welfare problems and can include circling, excessive licking of paws, flanks or the cage and howling. Dogs in these situations can develop severe mental illness which can affect their ability to be re-homed.

The bones and muscles of caged dogs are often weak and painful from the lack of space and exercise. Being confined also prevents dogs… from having opportunities to socialise with humans and other animals. Confining animals permanently in small cages means that they must eat, sleep, toilet… all in the same small area, causing great suffering and promoting infection and disease.

Confinement leads to:
• severe psychological distress
• serious behavioural problems
• serious medical and physiological problems
• socialisation problems.

…A high incidence of viral, bacterial and fungal infections including canine distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and kennel cough. These conditions can cause acute suffering and can also have chronic effects on the animals that survive the initial infection.

This is the RSPCA’s own write up of the effects of extended kennelling on the behaviour of dogs. (Full link here)

The Double Standard Towards Hank Whilst Incarcerated

But of course the write up of extended kennelling applies to puppy farm dogs. The RSPCA does not believe puppy farmers should be allowed to keep dogs in extended kennelling because of an implicit and scientific understanding that it is cruel.

However, while puppy farmers confining dogs in such conditions is deemed by the RSPCA as unacceptable, reports from Hank’s owners show that the way in which Hank is kept is reflective of such extended kennelling!

[Hank’s swollen legs]
This was another photo the owners were able to take of Hank in June 2017, just weeks after his incarceration commenced and before their supervision at visitations became even more tightly controlled by Council where no further photos could be taken.  It is alleged his legs have since become, and remain, infected among other conditions and illnesses.

Hank is very ill from the conditions he has been kept in and is in an environment sub-standard for such length of time. He’s being exposed to the health and welfare implications of being held with the thousands of other animals being processed through RSPCA Dakabin annually.

Distressingly, his case is mirroring that of other known dogs who have spent extended periods in “care”.

Link: What happened to sweet Roxy at the RSPCA

Link: What happened to Braveheart at the RSPCA

Hank continues to be subjected to the known damages caused by extended kennelling despite a contentious dangerous dog declaration by his family and ongoing appeals after a grossly unfair seizure and unjustified pursuit of a destruction order. This much loved, gentle giant with so many supporters is heartbreakingly wasting away behind bars. HANK HAS NOW BEEN IMPOUNDED LIKE THIS FOR 8 MONTHS and risks destruction at any moment by malfeasant actions.

To continue to keep Hank incarcerated is a cruel and unusual punishment.

The Solution Is Obvious

Right now, another appeal with QCAT for an external review is pending but that hearing won’t happen until circa April 2018.  (Hank will have been impounded in the conditions he has been for 11 months by that time!)
If QCAT choose not to hear the appeal, the destruction order will stand and unless Council revoke their directions, Hank will be put to sleep. Hank will be put to sleep without his family with him and after as patiently as possible enduring 11 months of hell, caged and locked away.

Moreton Bay Regional Council is not required to destroy Hank by the AM Act and their original decision after the incident to merely declare him (not destroy him) was made with all the same information and evidence that they have today – nothing has changed.  The only sensible course of action here is for them to reinstate the approved conditions for him to remain with his family and send him home immediately.  Or, at the very least, urgently return to the mediation that was occurring in December 2017 where negotiations were successfully progressing to a positive conclusion before they too were cruelly withdrawn at the last minute.  Requests by Nathan & Tam to meet and personally discuss the matter with Mayor Allan Sutherland and CEO Daryl Hitzman have been denied.  With all things considered, surely common sense, humane treatment, decency and fairness should prevail.

Council continues to ‘remind’ Nathan and Tammy of the mounting bill for Hank’s incarceration that is looming over them.  As advised by them on 2 January 2018 it is now at $11,140 “directly associated with seizure and impoundment” and rising by $50 per day, not even including food and veterinary care (the latter being allegedly ineffective).  It seems this matter could have been settled long ago – and almost was – without the need for this, and other expenses, to be incurred by anyone.

What Hank’s Family Are Asking

  • Moreton Bay Regional Council to permit RSPCA Dakabin to allow urgent access and contact with Hank by their vet to independently assess his current condition and provide necessary treatment or failing that, RSPCA Qld to review their complicity to also not allow this to occur as a matter of priority; and
  • Moreton Bay Regional Council to allow immediate relaxation of the unreasonable visiting hour limitations in place for them to include access on weekends, and as frequently as they are able to attend or failing that, RSPCA Qld to review their complicity as a matter of priority; and
  • Moreton Bay Regional Council to reinstate the original conditions as allowed and approved prior to his seizure on 23 May 2017, allowing him to promptly and without unnecessary delay to return home; and
  • Moreton Bay Regional Council to commit to a review of their internal processes and policies in relation its staff and representatives’ training, compliance and administration of the AM Act. And, to further review accordingly any associated Local Laws, in conjunction with consultation of the local Community and respective animal welfare bodies which is an issue relevant to all pet owners.

 

Please do not waste a moment in supporting Hank

To assist, please urgently:

  1. Sign the Petition here on Change.org.au
  2. Like the Facebook Page to follow updates at Save Hank the Neo Mastiff (watch the videos there from the Walk for Hank from 13/1/18 attended by Hank’s family, also supported by the attendance of the original Investigating Officer)
  3. Donate via the GoFundMe page or for bank details for direct deposit, go here.
  4. Follow the Instagram page for Hank’s supporters
  5. Follow on Twitter and tweet your support!
  6. Share Hank’s story with other community groups, friends and family who ma also wish to join in support.

Hank-cLet’s not allow Hank to waste away and be forgotten but instead be his voice and the voice for other innocents.