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XL Bully breed to be banned in the UK
XL Bully breed to be banned in the UK following the third incident in less than a week.
The American XL Bully dog will be banned in the UK by the end of the year following a series of attacks, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.
In a video announcement posted on Friday 15th September 2023, the PM said the breed would be banned following a ‘pattern of behaviour that cannot go on’.
Mr Sunak said he had ordered ministers to convene a panel of experts to define the breed so it can then be outlawed.
It’s clear the American XL Bully dog is a danger to our communities.— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) September 15, 2023
I’ve ordered urgent work to define and ban this breed so we can end these violent attacks and keep people safe. pic.twitter.com/Qlxwme2UPQ
The announcement came after a 52 year old man died in a suspected XL Bully attack in Stonnall, Staffordshire, the third incident involving allegedly out-of-control dogs in less than a week.
The fatality occurred just a day after a ten-year-old boy playing football outside his house was attacked by an out-of-control dog. This attack was captured on CCTV and the harrowing footage shows the dog relentlessly attack the defenceless boy.
Less than a week earlier, an XL Bully mauled an 11-year-old girl and 2 men in Birmingham.
Our thoughts are with all those involved or affected by these distressing incidents
What is an XL Bully?
The question of “what is an XL Bully” is part of the problem facing the policy makers in the UK at the moment. It is also why owners of many breeds are concerned due to what any proposed ban or legislation will focus on. Will it be a breed or a ‘type’ ban. Clearly if it is a ‘type’ ban then other breeds will invariably be affected.
The XL Bully is not actually a breed in itself. It is a recently created breed and is not recognised by the UK Kennel Club.
The XL Bully is a variation on the American Bully. The American Bully has been around since the 90’s and the XL Bully has been around since around 2014.
The American Bully is believed to have been created from the American Pitbull terrier crossed with other bull terrier breeds, bully breeds and bull type breeds.
Prior to importing to the UK, the American Bully was already known to have very close bloodlines and reported signs of aggression from the US. The UK XL Bully again has very close bloodlines due to the limited number of foundation dogs initially imported to the UK.
The XL Bully is believed to have first been imported in the UK around 2014 where it is believed to have been further crossed again with other breeds including American Pitbull Terriers, various bull breeds and also mastiff type breeds to add size and strength..
Sadly, the UK XL Bully has been bred to create numerous exotic colours and extreme size to attract sales. Many of these dogs are sold for many thousands of pounds. Many have been purchased by inexperienced owners seemingly as a fashion accessory or as a statement dog.
Dog attacks: Is there such thing as a dangerous dog breed?
The recent incidents of dog attacks are deeply distressing and our thoughts are with all those involved, but banning this breed or any breed will sadly not stop these types of incidents occurring and continuing to occur.
For 32 years since the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991, this piece of legislation has focused on banning types of dogs.
Since the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991, there has actually been an increase in dog attacks. The recent deaths confirm that this approach isn’t working.
It doesn’t matter which source of data is viewed, all sources show that Dog attacks in general are increasing as are fatalities from Dog attacks.
My research for this publication and the data that I have viewed including data from the ONS (Office for National Statistics), NHS and Police, all confirm an increase of attacks on people by dogs.
The simple truth is that more incidents of dog attacks are occurring and a large number of these attacks are being attributed to the XL Bully. This is why the government is proposing that the XL Bully breed is to be banned in the UK.
Denying that the problem exists is simply ignorant. There is a problem with dog owners, dog breeders and with some breeds.
As responsible dog owners and dog breeders we all need to acknowledge and address this or we will find many our family pets restricted or banned. It really is that simple.
What is the Dangerous Dogs Act? Which dogs are banned? And why is it controversial?
What is the Dangerous Dogs Act?
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 bans or restricts certain types of dogs and makes it an offence to allow a dog of any breed to be dangerously out of control.
It was introduced over 30 years ago by the then Home Secretary ‘to rid the country of the menace of these fighting dogs’ after a string of attacks.
Which dogs are currently banned in the UK?
It is illegal to own four breeds of dogs without an exemption from a court. They are:
- American Pitbull Terriers
- Japanese Tosas
- Dogo Argentinos
- Fila Brazileiro
The law also criminalises cross-breeds of the above four types of dog – meaning that whether a dog is prohibited will depend on a judgement about its physical characteristics and whether they match the description of a prohibited ‘type’.
What happens if there is a dog attack?
You can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months if your dog is dangerously out of control.
You may not be allowed to own a dog in the future and your dog may be destroyed.
If you let your dog injure someone you can be sent to prison for up to five years or fined. If you deliberately use your dog to injure someone you could be charged with ‘malicious wounding’.
And if you allow your dog to kill someone you can be sent to prison for up to 14 years or get an unlimited fine.
Why is the Dangerous Dogs Act controversial?
Both the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association have protested against the Act’s focus on ‘banned breeds’ as it is failing to address the underlying causes of dog bites and aggressive behaviour.
They have called on the Government to urgently revise the Act to make it fit for purpose.
Does banning by breed work?
The short answer is no.
In spite of the Dangerous Dogs Act being in place for nearly three decades, as of this submission, there is no scientific or statistical evidence to suggest that the law has effectively reduced the frequency or severity of dog-related injuries to people.
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), of which the United Kingdom is a member, supports this claim and strongly believes that the most effective means of preventing and controlling aggression is not to ban specific breeds, but to direct measures at the individual dog and its owner.
Furthermore, they state that any dog of any breed, type or mixed breeding can
There is even ample evidence to prove that the banned breeds are no more likely to bite than any other breed.
A study was done in the United Kingdom to determine whether breed specific legislation had actually worked. This study in 2005, examined the frequency and severity of dog-bite injuries at a Dundee hospital Accident and Emergency Department, before and after the implementation of the Dangerous Dogs Act.
In the 3 month period before the Dangerous Dogs Act was implemented, 99 cases of dog bites were reported, 3% of which were from pit bull type dogs.
When the number of dog bites were examined in a 3 month period 2 years after the ban was implemented, there was no change in the number of reported dog bites (99 cases), and the number of cases involving pit bulls was similar (5% of
The above-mentioned journal reported another UK study, which found that prior to the implementation of the Dangerous Dogs Act, 24% of people admitted to a hospital with dog bite injuries were bitten by German shepherds, compared with 18.2% bitten by mongrels, and 6% bitten by “dangerous” breeds (Pitbull terriers, Rottweilers, and Dobermanns).
This study also showed that typical family breeds, such as Labradors, Collies, Jack Russell terriers, and Cocker Spaniels, were biting at higher rates than the ‘dangerous dogs’.
Furthermore, though the deaths from dog bites in 1991 were the primary reason for the Dangerous Dogs Act to be implemented, there is absolutely no indication that the Dangerous Dogs Act has been able to prevent further human deaths.
Between 1991 and 2015, a staggering total of 63 people in England and Wales
were killed by dogs.
From this information, it becomes clear that the Dangerous Dogs Act was not born out of any logical basis, but was rather an emotional response influenced by sensationalism in the media at the time.
We believe the way forward is to implement a legislation which uses the latest scientific evidence which is backed by veterinarians and other canine professionals.
The Dog Control Coalition – which is made up of the RSPCA, Battersea, Blue Cross, the Dogs Trust, the British Veterinary Association, the Scottish SPCA, the Kennel Club and Hope Rescue – have opposed a ban on the breed and said they were “deeply concerned about the lack of data behind this decision”.
Concerns have also been raised that a ban on the American XL bully breed would be difficult to implement due to it not being an officially recognised breed and its similarities to other breeds.
What does this mean for dog owners?
Similar to when the Dangerous Dogs Act was implemented in 1991, responsible dog owners should be concerned.
It would be naive to think that breeds other than the XL Bully will not be included or affected by this proposed legislation. Imagine if, or as I fear when, the focus moves from a 60kg XL Bully and its potential for damage and is focused on a 80kg mastiff breed and its potential for damage.
The Dangerous Dogs Act was implemented following a spate of dog attacks similar to the situation now. The act was an emotional response to a situation over 30 years ago and the act needs to be updated and rethought using scientific evidence and not emotions.
With the current media and public emotions surrounding the recent deaths from allegedly XL Bullies and the difficulty in identifying the XL Bully breed, many other breeds could also find themselves on the banned list or affected by the proposed new legislation.
Currently owners of XL Bullies or a dog deemed to fit whatever legislation is imposed to ban the breed would need to seek exemption from the legislation. Exemption usually involves a number of steps such as assessment of the dog in question for aggression, the dog being muzzled when in public, approved public liability insurance for the dog, neutering of the dog and other possible restrictions.
Breeders, Dogs or Owners?
It only takes a cursory look at the dogs for sale on mainstream dog selling sites to see dogs being almost given away. Some of these dogs, including large powerful breeds are being sold for a few hundred pound or given away for free,
This doesn’t even account for dogs traded amongst circles of friends or communities or those that are ‘rehomed’.
Boerboel GB raised the concern about the unregulated and often murky world of ‘rescues’ and ‘rehomes’ in April 2023 following the death of two Boerboels that had passed through various hands and wound up in the hands of unsuitable owners.
Boerboel GB work with and provide support to a registered charity that provides rescue and rehoming in the UK. This charity has several decades of specific expertise relevant to breeds such as the Boerboel. We do not condone the unregulated people or organisations that falsely present themselves as ‘rescues’.
It is often these dogs that are ‘rehomed’ or ‘rescued’ by these unregulated people and organisations that unfortunately go on to bite resulting in injury to a person and the destruction of the dog or be bred from by unscrupulous would be owners.
Clearly there are a number of breeders of various breeds that breed solely for financial gain and with little regard for the dogs they breed or the people they sell their puppies to.
It is these same breeders that wouldn’t consider the temperament of animals that they breed or the health of the animals they breed.
These breeders don’t offer any support to owners and have neither the means nor inclination to offer any kind of ‘return to breeder’ policy.
It is also this kind of irresponsible breeders that will be unaffected by any current or proposed legislation as they will simply switch the breed that they sell in order to avoid potential prosecution.
The foundation breeding stock of a kennel is crucial to a good kennel. As is the day to day breeding stock. Breeding from poor bloodlines with a history of health problems and/or aggression is a recipe for disaster for future generations. Breeding bloodlines that are too close or directly inbreeding can also produce problems for future generations.
Ethical and responsible breeders should have vetting processes in place. This is to ensure that the puppy they are offering to owners ends up in the right home with the right owner. A good breeder will have spent many years, thousands of hours and lots of personal sacrifices to produce each and every puppy they sell. They will have suffered heartache with every puppy lost during birth and formative days, often hand rearing the puppies.
Breeders that are ethical and responsible will carry out routine health testing and DNA testing of their breeding animals to ensure they breed high quality and healthy puppies that they want to see flourish in its new home.
Regardless of breed, a good breeder will not make these sacrifices or go to these lengths to breed the best dog they can only to hand it over to unsuitable owners.
The dogs themselves are often mere pawns in this process. Having been bred by unscrupulous breeders and then passed or sold on to inexperienced or unsuitable owners. Even dogs bred by responsible owners can still find themselves in the hands of inexperienced or unsuitable owners.
Arguably though, regardless of breeder, a large and powerful dog in the hands of an unsuitable or inexperienced owner can be a danger. A danger to the owner, the owners family and members of the public or other animals.
Over the last few days I have seen and heard many comments from both sides of the current debate around dog aggression. As well intended as some of these comments are, most are at best anecdotal while some are just inaccurate. Many however are just plain incorrect.
Unpopular as the facts around aggression in dogs may be, they are facts.
Levels of aggression or drive does vary from breed to breed. Some breeds do have higher levels of aggression and drive than other breeds. Dogs from the same litter can and do have higher and lower levels of aggression than siblings.
Any dog, regardless of breed, can be or become aggressive. Aggression in dogs can be environmental such as what the dog is exposed to at the time of aggression. Similarly, aggression can be a reaction such as to fear. Some aggression is unfortunately caused by poor breeding, such as breeding from known aggressive lines or inbreeding.
It is with this in mind that the focus, emphasis and importantly responsibility needs to rest predominately square on the shoulders of the owners.
Responsible dog ownership
Many dogs from many breeds end up in the hands of irresponsible and/or inexperienced hands. Any dog in the hands of an irresponsible and/or inexperienced owner can be a problem to others.
Frequently I have witnessed dogs from little terriers to larger breeds that are out of control. With owners unwilling or unable to address their out of control dogs behaviours.
I would imagine that most owners of large dogs would recognise the experiences I have had when walking my large breed dogs of the small breed dog becoming aggressive at my dogs and the owner of the small breed dog stands there laughing, making jokes about the little dog kicking off. This is irresponsible of the small breed owners and this is just as much part of the problem.
It seems to have become publicly acceptable for small dogs to be aggressive but not for large dogs on the basis of potential. Clearly a larger dog has the potential to more damage than a small dog and obviously there is some truth to this.
Responsible dog ownership starts before acquiring you cute little puppy regardless of breed.
The first questions a responsible owner should ask themselves is “do i have the time and space for a dog?”.
The average life expectancy of dogs varies depending on breed but can range from 10 to 20 years or more. Can you as an owner commit to a pet for its entire life?
Prospective owners need to be realistic and honest with themselves about their experience levels. Some breeds of dog are simply not for inexperienced owners.
Before selecting any dog, do your research. Research the breed, research the kennel or breeder and speak to as many people as possible within the chosen breed. Attend breed shows, speak with clubs and never make any decision on emotion. That cute puppy wont stay a cute puppy for long.
Training a dog doesn’t start and stop at any stage of the dogs life. The Training starts from the first day you obtain your cute little puppy throughout the dogs life. Training and socialising is an ongoing exercise with any dog.
Too frequently questions are asked about when a dog is 18 months or so old about dealing with a behavioural problem the dog has ‘developed’. Whilst it is accepted that such an owner should be applauded for seeking advice, guidance and support to address the problem they have identified, it is also these owners that have not given the dogs boundaries, training and socialisation from an early age or felt that such training was ‘done’ and didn’t need to be continued.
Where a dog displays signs of aggression, either as a result of the breed or developed aggression, most owners will need to seek the guidance of a professional trainer with specific experience of the particular breed.
Large powerful breeds are not for inexperienced owners. Many of these breeds are very headstrong and stubborn. These dogs need a very strong handler and strong leadership. This only comes with experience and is not just ‘picked up’.
A responsible owner leads the dog. Responsible owner train and socialise the dog for its entire life. A responsible owner can read and recognise the body language of the dog and react accordingly. A responsible owner will not place the dog in a situation or environment that the owner or dog doesn’t have the skills to cope with.
What can I do?
If a driver under the influence of alcohol kills a family in a road traffic collision, we do not ban cars. We do not even ban alcohol.
Rather than banning cars or alcohol, we legislate to prevent people from driving when over a prescribed limit of alcohol consumption and impose heavy penalties for those that don’t comply.
Dealing with dogs, dangerous or otherwise should follow this same rationale.
Deed not Breed!
Dog ownership should be licensed and each dogs microchip legally registered to the owner. Owners of all dogs should be held accountable for their dogs actions.
It doesn’t matter which breed of dog you own or even if you don’t own a dog. If we want to see effective legislation to control dog ownership, we need effective legislation.
We ask you as owners and lovers of the Boerboel breed and other dogs to contact your MP to oppose the Government proposed ban of individual dog breeds.
It is probably inevitable that the XL Bully breed is set to be banned in the UK, but this will not resolve the issue. Previous bans and the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991 is proof this in ineffective.
Any proposed legislation needs to target owners and not dogs. Hold owners responsible and criminally liable for any dog, large or small. Legislation shouldn’t dictate which dogs people can own, rather which people can own dogs!
Lets stop focussing on the wrong end of the lead.
Boerboel GB are the official affiliated club of the South African Boerboel Breed Society (SABBS). We do not want to see similar legislation affect our breed or be included in this proposed legislation. As such we are working with SABBS, breeders and owners to educate and provide support to the Boerboel breed in the UK and to ensure the Boerboel is protected.