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The American XL Bully Ban in the UK

After the gruesome attacks on a young girl and two men in Birmingham UK, it is no surprise that people were calling for action. In response, the UK government has decided to ban the American XL Bully. What does this mean? And will it change anything?

The American XL Bully


The American XL Bully is a relatively new type of dog and has been developed in the US by crossing American Pit Bull Terrier with other breeds such as American Bulldog, English Bulldog, and Olde English Bulldogge. The American XL Bully was selectively bred for a larger and more muscular build, with a focus on a calm and friendly temperament.


Having worked with American XL Bullies myself, I noticed that the dogs were in fact friendly, calm and incorporated very well into the family. However, their owners have made a continuous effort to socialise these dogs from an early age on and this certainly was evident in the dog's confident and friendly temperament.


The American Bully is not a recognised breed by major kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC), the United Kennel Club (UKC) or the British Kennel Club (KC) but it is recognised by some smaller registries in the US.


The UK government is planning to implement a breed standard to make the identification of these dogs easier.

Dog attacks statistics


It's important to note, that it is very difficult to get accurate statistics of dog attacks in the UK. While these statistics provide an overview, they may not capture the full extent of the issue.


Here are some key statistics:


1. Hospital admissions: According to NHS Digital, there were 7,307 hospital admissions due to dog bites in England in 2019-2020. This represents a 5% increase from the previous year.


2. Children affected: Children are more vulnerable to dog attacks. In 2019-2020, children aged 0-9 had the highest admission rate for dog bites, followed by those aged 10-19.


3. Breeds involved: The most common breeds involved in reported dog attacks vary from year to year. However, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds are often mentioned.


4. Postal workers: According to the Communication Workers Union (CWU), there were 2,940 dog attacks on postal workers in the UK between April 2019 and April 2020. This represents an average of around 8 attacks per day.


5. Breed-specific legislation: The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 introduced breed-specific legislation (BSL) in the UK. As of 2021, four breeds are specifically banned under the legislation: Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasiliero. However, studies have shown that BSL has had limited effectiveness in reducing dog attacks.


6. Reporting incidents: It is estimated that only a fraction of dog attacks are reported officially, with many incidents going unrecorded. This means that the actual number of dog attacks in the UK may be higher than reported figures suggest.

Understanding dog attacks


Dog attacks can occur for various reasons, and it is important to understand these factors to prevent such incidents. Here are some common reasons behind dog attacks:


1. Lack of responsible ownership: Negligent or irresponsible ownership is the main contributor to dog attacks. This includes neglecting proper socialisation, training, and care for a dog's physical and mental well-being. Dogs that are mistreated or poorly trained are more likely to display aggressive behaviours.


2. Lack of socialisation: Dogs that are not properly socialised from a young age may become fearful or anxious in new situations or around unfamiliar people or animals. This fear can lead to defensive behaviours, including aggression.


3. Inadequate training: Dogs that have not received proper obedience training may struggle with impulse control, making them more likely to engage in aggressive behaviour. Adequate training helps dogs understand boundaries and to respond appropriately to various situations.


4. Protective or territorial instincts: Some dogs have strong protective or territorial instincts, which can lead to aggression if they perceive a threat to their family or territory. This behavior is often seen in breeds that were originally bred for guarding or protection purposes.


5. Fear and anxiety: Dogs that experience fear or anxiety may resort to aggression as a way to defend themselves or alleviate their distress. This can be triggered by loud noises, crowded areas, or past traumatic experiences.


6. Health issues or pain: Dogs in pain or discomfort may react aggressively when they feel threatened or when their sensitive areas are touched. In such cases, it is essential to address the underlying health issues and seek appropriate veterinary care.


7. Protective maternal instincts: Female dogs that have recently given birth may exhibit protective behaviours towards their puppies. This can lead to aggression if they perceive any potential threat to their offspring.


8. Prey drive: Especially common in certain breeds that have a strong instinct to chase and capture prey. Prey drive refers to the natural instinct of a dog to pursue and capture small animals or objects that resemble prey.

In some cases, dogs with a high prey drive may mistake small children, small pets, or even fast-moving objects (such as bicycles or joggers) as potential prey. This can lead to chasing, biting, or attacking behaviour.


9. Breeding: Poor breeding practices can contribute to an increased risk of dog aggression and attacks. Irresponsible breeding can lead to the perpetuation of genetic traits that may make dogs more prone to aggression or unpredictable behavior. Such traits can include poor temperament, lack of socialisation, fearfulness, and heightened prey drive.


Responsible breeding & ownership, proper training, socialisation, and understanding a dog's needs are key to preventing dog attacks.


The American XL Bully is a large and muscular type of dog known for its strength and loyalty. While some individuals may associate this breed with aggression, it's important to note that temperament can vary greatly among dogs, even within the same breed.


It is crucial to remember that any breed can be involved in an attack, and it is unfair to solely blame one specific breed.


There is no doubt, that the sheer size and power of the American XL Bully can cause much more harm than the bite of a Chihuahua.


However, instead of blaming a specific dog breed we should judge ownership and understand why these attacks are happening in the first place and do something about the causes, not the symptoms.

Will a collective XL Bully Ban help to prevent dog attacks?


The effectiveness of dog breed bans is a topic of debate.


Proponents of breed bans argue that they help protect public safety by reducing the number of dog attacks and fatalities. They believe that certain breeds, such as Pit Bulls or Rottweilers, are inherently dangerous and banning them can prevent potential incidents. Some cities or countries have implemented breed-specific legislation (BSL) to ban or restrict these breeds.


However, critics of breed bans argue that they are ineffective and unfair. They believe that a dog's behaviour is influenced more by factors like socialisation, training, and responsible ownership rather than its breed alone. They argue that breed bans target certain breeds unfairly, leading to the stigmatisation and discrimination of responsible breeders & dog owners and well-behaved dogs.


Additionally, research on the effectiveness of breed bans has yielded mixed results. Some studies suggest that breed-specific legislation has not been effective in reducing dog bite incidents or fatalities. Other studies indicate that focusing on responsible ownership, education, and enforcement of existing laws can be more effective in preventing dog attacks.


Ultimately, there is no consensus on the effectiveness of breed bans.

The key to preventing dog attacks lies in a combination of responsible breeding and ownership, proper training, socialisation, and education for both dog owners and the general public. It is important to focus on individual dog behaviour rather than generalising based on breed alone.


The Cons of a ban


1. Lack of evidence: Breed-specific legislation (BSL) often targets specific breeds or types of dogs based on stereotypes and assumptions rather than scientific evidence. Studies have shown that breed alone is not a reliable indicator of aggression, and individual dog behavior and owner responsibility play a more significant role.


2. Focus on behaviour: Instead of focusing on a dog's breed, it is more effective to concentrate on the behaviour and actions of individual dogs. Aggressive or dangerous behaviour should be addressed regardless of the breed and the owner should be held accountable. Responsible breeders will further breed for good temperament and not aggressive traits.


3. Difficult identification: Identifying dog breeds can be challenging, especially for mixed-breed dogs. BSL can lead to misidentification and unjust targeting of dogs that may not have any aggression issues.


4. Impact on responsible owners: Breed bans punish responsible owners who have well-behaved dogs of the targeted breeds. These owners may face restrictions, limitations, and stigmatisation solely based on their dog's breed.


5. Shifts focus from responsible ownership: Breed bans can create a false sense of security by placing the blame solely on the breed, rather than emphasising responsible ownership, proper training, and socialisation. Responsible ownership and education are key to preventing dog-related incidents.


6. Encourages underground breeding: Breed bans can lead to an increase in illegal breeding and the development of underground dog markets, where unregulated breeders produce and sell banned breeds without considering temperament or responsible ownership.


Instead of breed bans, many experts advocate for responsible breeding and ownership laws & regulations that hold owners accountable for their dog's behaviour.


This includes promoting proper training and socialisation, implementing owner education programs, and imposing hefty penalties for dog owner's whose dog shows irresponsible behaviour, regardless of the dog's breed. By focusing on responsible breeding and ownership, the goal is to prevent incidents and to promote the wellbeing of both dogs and communities.


Let's not forget that licensed puppy farms are still legal in the UK and the rising number of backyard breeding is VERY concerning.


Things need to change! Dog owners need to be held accountable for their dog's behaviour and back yard breeding and puppy farms should be banned. Focusing on banning certain dog breeds will not help dogs nor communities.

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