What are American bully XL dogs – and why could the government face a tough time banning them?

American XL bully dogs have been reponsible for a spate of attacks

Matt Mathers
Thursday 05 October 2023 10:51 BST
Kemi Badenoch had 'never heard of' XL Bully until Birmingham attack

American XL bully dogs are back in the headlines.

The breed will be banned by the end of the year following a series of attacks, Rishi Sunak has said.

The Prime Minister made the promise after it emerged a man has died after being attacked by two dogs – suspected to be bully XLs – in Staffordshire and following a video of another incident that went viral when an 11-year-old girl suffered serious injuries in Birmingham.

Mr Sunak said: “I share the nation’s horror at the recent videos we’ve all seen. Yesterday we saw another suspected XL bully dog attack, which has tragically led to a fatality.

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

But what is an XL bully and how likely is a ban?

American XL bully’s are dogs are close to the pitbull terrier and have been crossbred with other breeds such as English bulldogs, Olde English Bulldogge and American bulldogs.

XL’s got recognition as a breed from the US United Kennel Club in 2013 but they are not recognised by the main dog associations in the UK.

XL refers to their size and there are four categories: pocket, standard, classic and XL, which tend to be around 33-50cm in heigh and weigh in at 20-60kg.

Two of four fatal in the UK in 2021 involved an XL bully, with the number increasing to at least six out of ten in 2022. According to Bully Watch, a group set up by a group of dog owners to monitor the breed, XL’s were responsible for 45 per cent of dog attacks on human and other dogs this year.

Because the breed is not recognised by the Kennel Club it could be hard to define and a ban could inadvertently outlaw a range of other dogs, some fear.

Home secretary calls for ban on XL bully dogs

It is against the law to own, breed or sell dogs on the list drawn up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

But it is also against the law to have a dog that is dangerously out of control, which can be punished by prison sentences and unlimited fines.

Emma Whitfield, the mother of 10-year-old Jack Lis – who died after being mauled by an American bully in Caerphilly, South Wales, has been calling for a change in the law.

Sir John Hayes, a close ally of Ms Braverman, has been pushing in the House of Commons for a ban on the dog he has claimed is “bred to kill”.

However, animal charities including the RSPCA have been pushing for an end to breed-specific bans which they say work against dogs perceived to be “dangerous” and lead to thousands of “innocent” animals being put down.

Instead they want to focus on individual actions and dangerous owners.

A Dogs Trust spokesman said: “Dogs Trust wants to see the current dog control laws replaced with one consolidated law that allows for early intervention with a focus on the prevention of dog bite incidents and includes measures that deter and punish owners of dogs whose behaviour is dangerous.

“We will continue to look for reform in existing dog control laws until we are satisfied that any new measures are preventative, breed-neutral and effective, and ultimately protect both dogs and people alike.”

There are currently four banned breeds of dog in the UK: the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro.

Last month a 28-year-old woman and mother was hospitalised after being attacked by one of the dogs while pushing her pram in Doncaster.

She was taken to hospital for treatment for serious injuries to her arms.

Earlier this year, a six-year-old boy was hospitalised with potentially “life-changing” injuries after he was attacked by an American Staffordshire terrier in Highfields, also in Doncaster.

In March last year, a newborn baby was mauled to death by her parents’ Siberian Husky during an attack in woodland at Ostler’s Plantation near Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire.

Her parents Vince King and Karen Alcock were spared jail, as a judge at Lincoln Crown Court handed the pair suspended sentences.

Jack Lis, a 10-year-old boy, died from “unsurvivable injuries” after being attacked by an XL bully named Beast at a house in Caerphilly, Wales, in 2021.

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