XL Bully owner's spent £1300 to keep him and wears bodycam when dog walking in Llandudno

North Wales Live
Martyn Bates is the owner of "gentle giant" Memphis - a three-year-old 54kg, pedigree XL bully. Credit: North Wales Live

A worried owner of an XL bully in Llandudno has spent £1300 to keep him and started wearing a bodycam so he can take him for walks on the beach and pier.

Martyn Bates, 47, is the owner of "gentle giant" Memphis - a three-year-old 54kg, pedigree XL bully, who enjoys playing in the park and swimming on West Shore beach near his home.

However, being classified as a dangerous breed, he must now wear a muzzle and a lead when out.

Even though XLs were intended to be pets, they accounted for 351 attacks in 2023, says Bully Watch.

It is now a criminal offence to own an XL bully dog in England and Wales without an exemption certificate, meaning unregistered pets will be taken and owners possibly fined and prosecuted.

Being classified as a dangerous breed, Memphis must now wear a muzzle and a lead when out. Credit: North Wales Live

Memphis has generally been met with empathy from passers-by who have expressed their despair about the laws.

However, tension peaked for Martyn on boxing day during a routine visit with Memphis to Llandudno Pier.

"I always go to the pier on Saturdays for a coffee and doughnut," said Martyn.

"While standing in the queue, Memphis wanted to say hello to a teenage girl but I could see she was a bit nervous, so I pulled him back.

"I thought nothing of it, and no one said anything, until a man came barging through the crowd. He started pushing me and accusing me of letting my dog attack children."

Martyn said most people love his dog Memphis, but after a scary moment at the pier, he went to the police to make sure Memphis wouldn't be taken away without a good reason.

He's even started wearing a camera when they go out for walks, just in case he needs to show that Memphis is a good boy.

Martyn took Memphis to a special dog trainer in Lancashire who said Memphis is not a risk. This means Martyn can get a special certificate to help keep Memphis safe if there's ever trouble.

"If the police seize Memphis for whatever reason, he could be kept in kennels for six months waiting for his case to be assessed in court," he said. "With an IES, if I can show he's a well-behaved dog, I can at least get Memphis back home until the hearing.

"However, it's not always the dog that's the problem, but the gear they wear. People's perceptions change when they see a large dog wearing a muzzle, thinking there must be a reason for it."

Martyn tried to change this by posting photos of Memphis on Facebook, both with and without his muzzle, to show that his temperament hadn't changed.

"Big dogs look scary in muzzles," he said. "I just wanted everyone to know that Memphis is very friendly, very approachable and he loves people and other dogs."

His post on social media sparked a debate, with some agreeing that it's a tragedy affecting the breed and blaming irresponsible owners. Some suggested fines and sanctions rather than bans, fearing other breeds could be next.

The three year old canine enjoys playing in the park and swimming on West Shore beach near his home. Credit: North Wales Live

Others argued that public safety should be the priority. A resident from Llandudno added: "If the law is applied correctly, they will not exist on our streets within 10 years as they'll have died out through natural causes, thankfully."

Martyn had Memphis neutered three months ago in anticipation of the ban and managed to secure an exemption.

Before the breed was added to the dangerous dogs list, nearly 3,500 banned dogs were legally living with their owners in the UK.

According to the UK ministry Defra, this number had increased by over 35,000 by the time the deadline for XL exemptions arrived, a figure believed to be an underestimate.

About 150 people applied for £200 compensation to have their XL put down. Martyn never considered this option. "It never entered my mind," he said. "That was never going to happen."

In total, Martyn estimates that meeting the exemption criteria has cost him £1,300.

He believes it was money well spent. "What's happened is very annoying but I can't do anything about it," he said. "I've just got to stick to the rules. If you love your dog like I do, you will do anything to keep it."

However, there are more expenses on the horizon.

Since XLs must be leashed in gardens unless fences are at least 6ft tall, Martyn and his partner Vicky plan to increase the height of their boundary so Memphis can run around freely.

"It's a shame as we live in the centre of town and lots of passing kids like to say hello to him," he said.

To compensate for the loss of freedom at the beach and park, Memphis has been given free access to a secure local horse field.

The space was offered by a "kind lady" who sympathised with the dog's restricted circumstances. He visits there at least once a week.

Martyn said: "It's disappointing that all dogs are tarred with the same brush," adding "But while I don't totally agree with the ban, I do think that any dog over 30kg should be licenced and risk-assessed before they can be left off its lead in public. Even dogs of this size are big enough to cause damage if not handled properly."

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