Sunak’s American XL bully dogs ban backed by architect of Dangerous Dogs Act

Lord Baker, who introduced the legislation when home secretary in 1991, said the dog types should be ‘neutered or destroyed’.

Patrick Daly
Friday 15 September 2023 17:22 BST
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that American XL bully dogs will be banned by 2024 (Gwent Police/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that American XL bully dogs will be banned by 2024 (Gwent Police/PA)

The Prime Minister’s ban on American XL bully dogs has been commended by the former Conservative home secretary who introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Rishi Sunak on Friday said the dogs will be banned by the end of the year in response to a series of attacks.

The decision has been backed by campaign groups, the Labour Party and Baron Baker of Dorking, who put the Dangerous Dogs Act on the statute books more than 30 years ago.

The pledge comes after it emerged a man died after being attacked on Thursday by two dogs – suspected to be bully XLs – in Staffordshire.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman appeared to set the Government action into motion after stating on Sunday that she had commissioned “urgent advice on banning” XL bullies following a video of another incident that went viral when an 11-year-old girl suffered serious injuries in Birmingham.

Posting on Twitter, now known as X, after the Prime Minister’s announcement, Mrs Braverman said she expected police to “use all available powers to protect the public from these beasts” before a ban is formally introduced.

Mr Sunak said he had ordered ministers to bring together police and experts to define the breed of dog behind these attacks so they can then be outlawed.

In a video posted on social media, the Conservative Party leader said: “We will then ban the breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act and new laws will be in place by the end of the year.

“These dogs are dangerous, I want to reassure the public that we will take all necessary steps to keep people safe.”

Lord Baker, the architect of the Act during the Sir John Major era, said American XL bully dogs should be “neutered or destroyed” once the ban has come into force, with any permitted to live being “muzzled for the entire time”.

Speaking to LBC, the Tory peer said: “It should be done almost immediately because this is a very dangerous breed and it has actually killed children and attacked other people, and I do not accept the views of the Kennel Club and the RSPCA that breeds should not be banned.

“This dog is, in fact, bred in order to fight and to be aggressive. It has already done enough damage and the Prime Minister is absolutely right to add it.”

Three campaign groups issued a joint statement welcoming the UK Government’s announcement.

Bully Watch, the Campaign for Evidence Based Regulation of Dangerous Dogs (CEBRDD) and Protect Our Pets claimed the XL bully breed was a “a clear and present threat to public health”.

Lawrence Newport, of CEBRDD, said: “Retrievers retrieve, pointers point. Fighting dogs fight. We have found this to our great cost.

“The importing of the American bully, a highly inbred Pitbull-type, led to skyrocketing deaths and attacks. This ban will finally allow the Government and police to act, before another child or pet is ripped apart.”

Labour, while supportive of the ban, criticised the Prime Minister for “dithering” over bringing in restrictions on their ownership.

Shadow environment secretary Steve Reed said: “Families will be furious that it has taken this long for Rishi Sunak to finally act.”

Downing Street denied the Government had taken too long to introduce a prohibition.

The American XL bully dog type is not recognised as a specific breed by the Kennel Club, and some fear its cross-bred nature could inadvertently outlaw a range of other dogs.

Mr Sunak pledged that animal experts and police would work to “accurately define the breed of concern”.

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

A coalition of animal charities, including the RSPCA and the Kennel Club, said banning American XL bully dogs would not stop attacks.

A spokeswoman for the Dog Control Coalition said: “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.”

The group, which also includes the Dogs Trust and British Veterinary Association, said it was “deeply concerned about the lack of data behind this decision and its potential to prevent dog bites”.

Within minutes of Mr Sunak announcing the ban, a man was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter over the attack in Main Street, Stonnall, on Thursday, Staffordshire Police said.

The 30-year-old, from the Lichfield area, was previously arrested on suspicion of being in charge of dogs dangerously out of control causing injury.

Police confirmed the victim, Ian Price, aged 52, died in hospital of his injuries.

One of the dogs died after being restrained and the other died after an injection was given by a vet, the force said, adding that both were believed to be XL bullies but further tests are being carried out to determine their breed.

Separately, a 60-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of possessing a dog dangerously out of control after the dog attack on Saturday that left 11-year-old Ana Paun with injuries that required her to spend a night in hospital.

She suffered shoulder and arm injuries in the attack by an American bully XL and Staffordshire bull terrier crossbreed puppy in Bordesley Green, Birmingham.

Two other men were also injured in the attack after the dog broke free from its collar twice.

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