By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporters of Hank the dog took to the pavement outside the Lewis County Courthouse Monday morning to raise awareness of the plight of a dog who they say has been wrongly classified as dangerous and sentenced to die.
“For me, it pulled at my heartstrings and I thought, ‘That’s God’s way of waking me up,’ ” said Steve Hoecker, one of the organizers of Monday’s event. Since he learned about Hank’s story, he’s been working with his owner and regularly calling Commissioner Gary Stamper to advocate for the dog.
Hoecker of Randle, hand-delivered more than 148,000 signatures gathered through an online petition asking Lewis County to spare the life of a dog beloved by his new family. About a dozen supporters gathered for a rally as the signatures were handed over.
“I have a dog that looks just like him and a four-year-old son and they’re best friends,” said Shayla Hemphill.
Hemphill said she couldn’t imagine the how her family would react if their beloved dog was taken away. She and others spoke out against discrimination and breed-specific legislation against pit bull mixes.
Nine-year-old Ashlynne Runyan attended the rally with her family.
“He needs to be free,” she said, while holding a sign supporting the dog.
Her mother, Jennifer Runyan, said she doesn’t think the criminal justice system pays enough attention to crimes against animals. e Hank.
“There’s a lot of people in the world too afraid to speak up, said Ashlynne’s brother Taylor Runyan.
Hank, first known as Tank, is a pit bull mix accused in April 2016 of killing two goats and injuring a pony with his mother — another pit bull mix called Sadie.
He was declared dangerous, seized by Lewis County and set to be euthanized before county employees took pity on him, changed his name and adopted him out to a new family earlier this year.
When county officials learned of the incident, the dog was again seized from new owner Jan Propp-Estimo and her family, who say they have never had any reason to believe the Hank was dangerous.
In June, the Lewis County Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance allowing for an appeal process to a dangerous dog classification.
Adam Karp, an animal rights attorney, filed a petition in Lewis County District Court to have Hank’s distinction reversed.
However, on June 19, District Court Judge R.W. Buzzard upheld the conclusion that Hank was a dangerous dog, and again sentenced the dog to be euthanized.
Karp filed an appeal and a stay on Hank’s euthanasia was granted. He is still at the Lewis County Animal Shelter.
A hearing on Hank’s appeal is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 24 in Grays Harbor Superior Court in Montesano.