UPDATE 9/13/17: Good news and bad news. On Sept. 8 The Grays County Judge affirmed Lewis County’s classification of Hank as a dangerous dog, so he was not returned to his family and remains at the Lewis County Animal Shelter.
To clarify, the appeal wasn’t to determine if Hank was dangerous but to determine if the previous judge followed the law. In the end the Grays Harbor Judge’s determination was that there was not enough evidence to convince him that he hadn’t.
The good news is that the Judge didn’t object to the stay of execution filed on behalf of Hank so he is not scheduled to be euthanized. Hank’s team can’t say much about what their strategy is now other than a stay will be sought pending appeal to the Washington Court of Appeals on September 25.
Some people want to know if they can do anything to help Hank. Here’s a message from someone on his team regarding how you can help:
“Greetings all. Okay we likely woke up the Governor’s office with phone calls but if you haven’t called please do. Now that they know about us and how strong the Hank movement is it’s time to send some emails. I am including the link. Let’s select animal under the subject box. I will say it again that the Hank movement always strives to keep to the high road. Please don’t just rant and rave. If you don’t know for sure if something is true or not don’t say it. Let them know how you feel, why this matters to you and what you think is wrong about it (just suggestions). Let’s be respectful and not resort to name calling or attacks against individuals. Our voice will likely be heard much louder if we stay respectful. It would be good to say somewhere in your response that you support the moratorium on Hank the Dog’s Death Sentence. Here is the link. http://www.governor.wa.gov/…/cont…/send-gov-inslee-e-message. Let Your Voices be heard.”
UPDATE 8/26/17: The Judge moved Hank’s trail to September 8. Click here for the full story.
HANK FINDS HIS FOREVER HOME
On January 17, 2017, Jann Propp-Estimo and her husband Gary Pringle traveled from their home in Centralia to the Lewis County Animal Shelter to adopt a dog to be a companion with their 4-year-old Coonhound Bruce Almighty.
As they looked at the dogs in the crowded, noisy shelter, Jann noticed a fawn-c0lored pit bull mix with a stuffed toy in its mouth looking at her and wagging his tail. She later said, “he was the only dog in the packed shelter who wasn’t barking.”
The dog’s name was Tank. (the shelter changed his name to Hank shortly before he was adopted, so for clarity, that’s the name I’ll use for the rest of this post).
After spending a few minutes with Hank, both Jann and Gary decided to adopt him. While Jann stayed at the shelter with Hank, Gary went home to get Bruce Almighty so they could determine if the two dogs would get along.
After an uneventful meet and greet session, Jann and Gary adopted Hank and brought him home; however, from the moment they met Hank to the time they loaded him in their car, the shelter staff withheld an important piece of information about Hank:
Lewis County had designated Hank as a “dangerous dog” in June of 2016 for allegedly killing 2 goats with another dog (more on this later).
LEWIS COUNTY BACKTRACKS, TAKES HANK FROM HIS FAMILY
Jann and Gary gave Hank to their son and grandson after a couple of weeks because Bruce Almighty alternated between ignoring and harassing Hank. To ensure that Hank would be secure there, they spent $3000 to build a fence around their son’s yard.
Because they considered Hank their “family dog,” Jann and Gary saw him regularly. And their 9-year-old grandson Jason quickly developed a strong bond with Hank – they were virtually inseparable.
For the next 3 months, Hank’s behavior was exemplary. Jann said that “Hank did not attack, injure, or kill, any person, domestic animal, or livestock.”
On May 9, a detective from the Lewis County’s Sheriff’s Office called Jann and asked to come speak with her. When he arrived at her house with his supervisor, he told her that there was a “legal issue” with Hank and that “he never should have been adopted out.”
Jann believed the detective wanted her “to concede that Hank was even a tiny bit aggressive,” but she maintained that he had exhibited no aggression at all.
Eventually, the detective told her they were there to take Hank even though he didn’t have a warrant. Neither detective told her the County planned to euthanize him because he had been classified as a dangerous dog.
Why Lewis County officials tore Hank away from his loving family with virtually no explanation is a complicated story of mistakes, misunderstanding, and public officials trying to retroactively cover their butts.
LEWIS COUNTY SENDS CONFLICTING MESSAGES ABOUT HANK
Hank’s saga began on April 1, 2016 when he and his mother Sadie left the yard of Lewis County resident Debra Lynn Parscal, who at the time owned both dogs.
At approximately 4 PM, Hank and Sadie left their yard and walked towards a goat pen in neighbor’s yard. Not long afterwards, 2 goats were dead and pony had been injured.
Animal control officer Alishia Hornburg declared both dogs dangerous per the Lewis County Code. After hearings on April 26, 2016, on May 6, 2016, Danette York, Director at Lewis County Public Health & Social Services, upheld the designation.
On July 1 the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office “executed a search warrant, seizing (Hank) from Ms. Parscal’s property and taking him into County custody” because she didn’t follow the Lewis County Code specifying a set of actions which owners of a designated dangerous dog must follow.
On September 9, Eric Eisenberg from the Lewis County Department of Public Advocacy notified Ms. Parscal that she would be cited with an infraction for violating the dangerous dog ordinance. He also noted “the County had no desire to seek any penalty.”
Ms. Hanson noted more than once that Hank was a sweet, well-behaved dog:
- “he is an awesome dog! We have been letting him out to play with Remy and they do great, but his favorite thing is to pack his stuffed moose around in his mouth” email to Danette York, 9/8/16
- “We have had (Hank) since July 1 and all staff has fallen in love with him.” email to transfer coordinator for the animal rescue group NOAH on 10/27/16.
- “(Hank) remains a super sweet well behaved boy, even after close to 4 months in a shelter setting.” email to transfer coordinator for the animal rescue group NOAH on 10/27/16.
- “shelter staff have observed no signs of aggression at all.” email to transfer coordinator for the animal rescue group NOAH on 10/27/16.
- “This dog remains truly something special! Never jumps on you. will sit politely when asked, shakes hands a loves his stuffed toys.” email to transfer coordinator for the animal rescue group NOAH on 10/27/16.
LEWIS COUNTY TAKES BACK HANK 3 MONTHS AFTER HIS ADOPTION
When Jann adopted Hank from the Lewis County Animal Shelter, no one at the shelter gave her “any information about his dangerous dog history or alleged restraints imposed on dangerous dogs kept within the County.”
They had completely erased the goat chasing incident from his records, and his adoption was treated no differently than any other adoption from the shelter.
This meant, in my opinion, that shelter staff didn’t believe Hank was dangerous and posed no threat to humans or animals.
But as I wrote earlier, 3 months after Jann and Gary legally adopted Hank and signed the adoption contract giving them official custody of him, a representative from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office took Hank away from them without giving any explanation other than it was “legal issue” with Hank and that “he never should have been adopted out.”
Eventually, the County told Jann and Gary that due to Hank’s classification as a dangerous dog almost a year earlier, he would have to be euthanized.
DESPITE NEW EVIDENCE, JUDGE SAYS HANK SHOULD BE EUTHANIZED
This evoked a large, intense public outcry against the County’s sudden but unfounded concern that Hank was dangerous.
In response, the Lewis County Board of Commissioners amended the dangerous dog ordinance to allow any person claiming an interest in an animal designated as a dangerous animal….(to seek) an order rescinding that designation.”
On June 17, Judge R.W. Buzzard oversaw the hearing to determine if Hank’s designation as a dangerous animal could be rescinded.
At the hearing, Jann and Gary’s attorney presented new information to Judge Buzzard from both the owner of the goats that had been killed and his next door neighbor, the only eyewitness to the attack.
On the day of the attack, the neighbor told police that she saw the 2 dogs chase and kill one of the goats (the other one was already dead by the time she arrived). The officer asked her, “Did you see it kill the other goat?”, to which she replied, “Yes.”
Notice that she said both dogs chased and killed the one of the goats, but when the officer asked her if she saw “it” kill the goat, she answered, “Uh huh. Yes.”
To me, the neighbor’s conflicting answers never clearly specified that Hank killed the goat.
Hank’s Family Refuses to Give Up on Him – Video from Help Save Hank
At the June 17 hearing the Judge was presented a declaration from that same neighbor saying:
- she saw Sadie with her mouth around the neck of the goat that was already dead
- she saw Sadie chase and kill the second goat
- she saw both dogs chase the pony
She also clearly stated that, “At no time did I see (Hank) cause injury to or kill any livestock.”
The owner of the goats was at the hearing. During his testimony he said that directly after the attacks, he “was very prejudiced towards the dogs. At that point in time, this is before (he’d) seen the video, (he) felt that both dogs needed to be put down.”
The owner discovered later that a dash cam he had in a truck parked on his property recorded the attacks. After watching the video, he reversed his previous statement about Hank. He said, “when I finally sat down and calmed myself down, then I took a look at the video, I had told the sheriff, I do not feel that Hank, formerly known as Tank, does not deserve to die. I believe that he deserves a second chance.”
During his testimony he also said that his neighbor, the eyewitness, told him that “that Hank wasn’t aggressive towards the goat.”
But despite the new evidence that Hank didn’t kill the goat, Judge Buzzard said he would not remove Hank’s dangerous designation and ordered that he had to be euthanized within 48 hours.
APPEAL HEARING WILL DETERMINE WHETHER HANK LIVES OR DIES
The same day Judge Buzzard signed Hank’s euthanization order, Jann and Gary’s attorney filed an appeal to reverse his decision. Since then Hank’s euthanization date has been postponed several times. He now cannot be euthanized before August 31.
Hank’s appeal hearing is scheduled for August 24, but it will be in Grays Harbor County Superior Court instead of Thurston County because the Superior Court justices there recused themselves from the appeal hearing due to conflicts of interest.
Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge David Edwards will oversee the appeal hearing at 1:30 PM on Thursday, Aug. 24, in Montesano.
Jann, Gary, and especially their grandson Jason have been heartbroken since the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office took Hank away. They have visited him virtually every day since then, and they desperately hope Judge Edwards will rescind the order to euthanize Hank so they can take him home.
So why did Lewis County officials declare Hank dangerous take him from his family more than 3 months after it approved their adoption of him?
My guess is that someone outside the group that cleansed Hank’s history found out he had been adopted and directed them to reclaim Hank to protect the county against any liability if Hank killed livestock or bit someone.
NO PROOF HANK KILLED A GOAT
But Hank should never have been declared dangerous in the first place. The only part of Lewis County’s Code that could have been used to label him dangerous is 6.05.010(9)(b), which states that an animal can be classified as dangerous if it “Killed a domestic animal while at large or off the owner’s property.”
But no witnesses saw Hank kill a goat.
He did chase at least one goat and a horse, but nothing in the County Code mentions that a dog chasing animals can be labeled dangerous.
From the accounts I’ve seen, Hank has never shown aggression towards livestock. In fact, he lived harmoniously with free-roaming goats and chickens on a 3 acre farm for more than a year before Ms. Parscal adopted him.
Acknowledging Jann and Gary’s heroic efforts to save Hank, the Lewis County Prosecutor’s office worked with the County Council to pass an ordinance to allow the removal of a dangerous dog designation if new evidence emerges after the dog has been declared dangerous.
But despite the declaration of the neighbor who said she never saw Hank cause injury to or kill any livestock and the livestock’s owner who said his video showed Hank didn’t kill either of his goats, Judge Buzzard refused to remove Hank’s dangerous dog designation.
THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE SUPPORTING HANK’S FAMILY
The public support for Hank and his family has been phenomenal. Last week, some of Hank’s supporters help signs of support for Hank and delivered almost 150,000 signatures on a petition asking officials to spare Hank’s life and return him to his family.
Now Hank’s life is in the hands of Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge David Edwards who will decide next Thursday whether or not Hank’s dangerous dog designation should be rescinded.
I hope he gives more credence to the witness’ declarations than Judge Buzzard did. I also hope he takes into account that since Hank was taken from his family he has shown absolutely no aggression towards anyone.
Lastly, I hope he understands no one who has spent any time around Hank, including the Director of the Lewis County Animal Shelter and the man whose goats were killed, believes he is dangerous.
Hank does not deserve to die.
Jason visits Hank. Video from Help Save Hank
Please give Hank back to his family. Video from Help Save Hank