XL bully owner saddened as public avoids dog after ban makes muzzle mandatory

Ace is eight and a half months old and now has to wear a muzzle in public. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The owner of an XL bully says people avoid him and his dog now that his pet has to wear a muzzle in public, following new measures introduced last year after a series of attacks.

Restrictions were imposed in December, dictating that XL bullies must be kept on a lead, be muzzled in public and be kept in secure enough accommodation that they cannot escape.

Alan Saunders said: "Before the muzzle everyone wanted cuddles and kisses but now he's got a muzzle everyone avoids us.

"It's sad for him and it's sad for us but hopefully now with the friendly collar, it'll make a difference to him."

  • Alan Saunders says people now avoid him and his dog Ace

XL bully owners are now no longer able to apply for exemption certificates if they want to keep their dogs, with the ban on the breed set to come into force on Thursday.

From 1 February, it will be a criminal offence to own an XL bully dog in England and Wales without a certificate of exemption and a criminal offence if owners are not complying with the new rules.

To qualify for a certificate, owners needed to prove their XL bully would be neutered by 30 June if they were aged one or older on 31 January, or by 31 December 2024 if dogs are younger than 12 months.

Ace is eight and a half months old and now has to wear a muzzle in public. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Applications for exemption certificates closed at midday on Wednesday.

As well as neutering their animals, XL bully owners wanting to certify their dog as exempt needed to pay an application fee, hold third party public liability insurance for their pets and ensure the dogs are microchipped.

Breeding, selling or abandoning the dogs is also illegal as of 31 December.

Scotland is set to introduce a ban on XL bully dogs that will "in essence replicate" the UK legislation but without a licence, First Minister Humza Yousaf confirmed in early January.

  • Kirsty Wrightson believes the new rules will lead XL bullies to develop social anxiety

The manager of a rescue centre in Basingstoke, Hampshire, is taking steps to prevent XL bullies from developing social anxiety.

Kirsty Wrightson, manager at Helping Dogs and Cats Rescue, said: "Speak to the owners, because the owners are going through this as much as the dogs are.

"They've had a dog off lead that's been friendly, playing, and now all of a sudden they have got to wear a cage over their faces.

"It's as upsetting for the owners as it is for the dog, so if you do see somebody that is walking down the street [with an XL bully], do stop them, ask them.

"Obviously keep yourself safe, speak to them from a safe distance, ask if you can go over and have a chat. You'll find a lot of them are really pleased to welcome you to come and stroke their dog.

"It's not bad dogs, it's bad ownership, so don't judge the dog by the breed."

  • The RSPCA believes the new measures create a "horrible situation" for owners

Emma Slawinski, director of policy at the RSPCA, said: "We think this is a potentially dangerous position that the government have taken, we wish they wouldn't do this.

"The reason we hold that position is that we think that it doesn't work. It doesn't work to protect the public, which is what everybody wants, actually it just creates a horrible situation for dogs, for owners.

"People are very confused about what to do next so it's not going to work and there's a lot of evidence that it doesn't work to reduce dog bites, and it just blames the dog for how they look.

"We're worried that many innocent dogs will get wrapped up in that."

XL bullies were added to the Dangerous Dogs Act on 31 October last year, giving owners two months to prepare for the first stage of restrictions.

People with dangerously out of control dogs can be jailed for 14 years and banned from owning animals, and their pets can be put down.

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