Success! Hank, the Pit Bull Wrongly Accused of Killing Goats, Is Free

Imagine detectives coming to your door and taking away the happy dog you’d adopted not too long ago and already loved with all your heart. That’s exactly what happened to Jann Propp-Estimo and Gary Pringle of Lewis County, Wash., five months ago.

Unbeknownst to the couple, in April 2016 their pit bull mix Hank (then called Tank) was accused of killing two goats and injuring a pony in a neighbor’s yard. Hank had been seized by animal control, declared to be dangerous by Lewis County District Court Judge R.W. Buzzard and ordered to be euthanized. Dogs that kill livestock in Lewis County get automatic death sentences unless their owners obtain at least $500,000 in insurance for the dogs. Hank’s owner couldn’t afford it, so Hank’s sad fate was sealed. His owner moved out of state with Hank’s mother who was the actual guilty party.

While Hank was in custody at the Lewis County Animal Control shelter, employees realized he was far from “dangerous.”

Hank was a “super sweet well-behaved boy” who “never jumps up on you, will sit politely when asked, shakes hands and loves his stuffed toys, wrote shelter director Amy Hanson in an email to the NOAH Center, whose mission is to prevent the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable dogs and cats.

Hanson and the shelter staff didn’t want this sweet dog to die, so they changed his name and made him available for adoption. (Hansen and her boss were later charged with allowing a dog deemed dangerous to be outside of a proper enclosure, unmuzzled and unrestrained, but fortunately the charge was dropped.)

In January, Hank found a new forever home with Propp-Estimo and Pringle. It seemed like he would enjoy his happily ever after there, but apparently that was not meant to be.

When the prosecutor’s office found out Hank had a new name and had been adopted, sheriff’s department deputies were sent to take him away from his loving family. He was returned to the Lewis County shelter and Judge Buzzard ordered him to be euthanized.

For the next five months, Hank was confined to a concrete kennel in the shelter with little exercise or physical interaction with his family. When Propp-Estimo made her almost daily visits to see him, they were separated by a chain-link fence. Animal control officials repeatedly turned down the family’s requests to have open visits with their beloved pet, without giving any reason aside from a ridiculous concern that Hank might bite them.

As Hank languished in the shelter, a legal battle with over 450 court documents — ensued to free Hank. His family did all they could to spare their innocent dog’s life. Propp-Estimo shared her dog’s story on social media and the Help Save Hank website. Soon people from around the world joined her efforts. More than 400,000 people signed a Care2 petition asking the shelter to allow his family open visits with their beloved pet.

Adam Karp, the animal law attorney who last year helped a Washington man receive a $100,000 settlement after a neighbor killed his dog, represented Propp-Estimo.

During a hearing in June, evidence was presented to Judge Buzzard that seemed to prove without a doubt that Hank had not killed the goats. In photos of Hank just 30 minutes after the attacks, there was no blood on the dog. The owner of the goats said she never saw Hank injure or kill any animals.

Judge Buzzard said he didn’t believe the evidence.

Three months later, a county superior court judge was scheduled to hear an appeal and reverse Judge Buzzard’s decision. But that judge decided to let the ruling stand. Hank was scheduled to be killed Oct. 18.

Earlier this month, for the purpose of saving Hank’s life, the Board of Lewis County Commissioners added an amendment to the dangerous animal code that would prevent dogs being deemed as “dangerous” from being euthanized.

Just one day before Hank’s death sentence was to be carried out, he got a reprieve from another judge, John Skinder of the Thurston County Superior Court. Judge Skinder ordered a preliminary injunction to rescind Hank’s euthanasia order and to immediately return the dog to his family.

Hopefully this will be the end of the long legal battle to save Hank’s life. Lewis County could still challenge Judge Skinder’s decision — or do the right thing, and drop the case.

In the meantime, Propp-Estimo is delighted to have her dog back where he belongs. “I’m ecstatic,” she told the Seattle Times. “I’m gonna love Hank and make him feel at home.”

As you can see from this video, Hank also appears to be ecstatic that he’s finally back home where he belongs.

Photo credit: Help Save Hank/YouTube

92 comments

Philippa P
Philippa Powers15 days ago

Good news.

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Lois HAMILTON
Lois HAMILTON16 days ago

HANK, looks great, happy to be home. Make sure he’s there forever. GOD bless the whole family.

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Mark Donner
Mark D20 days ago

What's really annoying is these scum of the human race "judges" and "politicians" are spending millions in taxpayer money to satisfy their sadistic and murderous nature. They should be ones scheduled to be euthanized.

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Virgene L
Virgene L21 days ago

Thankfully this is good news! These incompetent officials from Lewis County should be retired. Four hundred fifty court documents when there are pictures of Hank after the supposed attack and after the neighbor gave him a clean behavior statement????? Really. Who is dangerous here?

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Kelsey S
Kelsey S21 days ago

Thanks

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Sonia M
Sonia M22 days ago

Good news thanks for sharing

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Isa J
Isa J22 days ago

Yes ! That 's good new!!!

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Veronica B
Veronica B22 days ago

Great News!!!

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Chad Anderson
Chad A22 days ago

Thank you!

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Carole R
Carole R22 days ago

Wonderful news!

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