XL bully owners 'won't have pets culled' when ban comes into force, says UK's chief vet

American XL Bully owners 'won't have pets culled' when new ban comes into force, according to UK's chief veterinary officer. Jay Akbar reports.

American XL Bully dogs will be banned 'by the end of the year', but this does not mean the dogs will be killed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made the announcement, following the latest dog attack which saw a man die, but Downing Street said the work to outlaw the breed started prior to the incident.

In a video message, the PM confirmed the move, saying he shared "the nation’s horror at the recent videos we’ve all seen".

Rishi Sunak made the announcement in a video on X, formerly known as Twitter Credit: AP

“It is clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs, it’s a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on," Mr Sunak said on Friday.

“While owners already have a responsibility to keep their dogs under control, I want to reassure people that we are urgently working on ways to stop these attacks and protect the public."

The prime minister has tasked police, dog experts and MPs to define what type of dog is behind the attacks and then to "outlaw" it he said.

Currently, an American XL Bully is not a legally recognised breed, so it cannot be banned yet.

The plan would be to ban them under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

This means people who own the dog can be jailed for up to 14 years, be disqualified from ownership or see dangerous dogs euthanised.

But questions remain about how exactly a ban will be implemented and enforced, with concerns about the challenge of defining the dog breed given its cross-bred nature.

Top vet Professor Christine Middlemiss said that coming to a “consensus” on that definition would be one of the first things officials would do.

She also confirmed an “amnesty” approach would mean there would not be a cull of the dogs.

“So people that already have these dogs – and some of them will be well socialised, well managed, well trained – you will need to register and take certain actions.

"But if you follow these actions then you will be able to keep your dog," she said, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The decision was welcomed by campaigners but other groups, including the RSPCA and the Kennel Club who make up the Dog Control Coalition , said banning American XL bully dogs would not stop attacks.

A spokeswoman for the coalition said: “The recent incidents are deeply distressing and our thoughts are with all those involved and affected.

“The biggest priority for everyone involved is to protect the public — but banning the breed will sadly not stop these types of incidents recurring.

“For 32 years, the Dangerous Dogs Act has focused on banning types of dog and yet has coincided with an increase in dog bites, and the recent deaths show that this approach isn’t working.

“The UK government must tackle the root issue by dealing with the unscrupulous breeders who are putting profit before welfare, and the irresponsible owners whose dogs are dangerously out of control.”

A stock photo of an American XL Bully Credit: PA Images

Advocates for the ban argue that larger dog breeds, especially those with a history of being bred for fighting or guarding, can pose a potential threat to public safety.

Critics also believe that breeding dogs to achieve unnaturally large sizes can lead to various health issues, questioning the ethics of breeding for such traits.

Others argue there have been isolated incidents of dog attacks, leading to an unfavourable portrayal of American XL Bullies.

But according to Bully Watch the dogs have killed 14 people since 2021, and big bully breeds have attacked 351 people in 2023 - that's 43% of all reported dog attacks.

Two dogs involved in a fatal attack in Stonnall on Friday were believed to be American XL Bullies, Staffordshire Police said the

The force added that one of the dogs died after being restrained and the other died after an injection was given by a vet.

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