UNITED KINGDOM—The UK government is considering banning American XL Bully dogs following the reported attack on an 11-year-old girl and two other men in Birmingham, England.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced that she has already commissioned ‘urgent advice,' stressing that ‘the American XL Bully is a clear and lethal danger to our communities, particularly to children.'
Dog Attacks in the UK
11-year-old Ana Paun was shopping with her sister in Bordesley Green, Birmingham when she noticed the Bully dog staring at her from the street.
“The dog was staring at me, and I got scared, so I started to run,” Ana told the BBC in an interview. “The dog grabbed my hand and started moving me about.”
Ana, who had to undergo treatment, including eight stitches, is now recovering.
Two other men tried to help her and scare the Bully away, but they were also injured and needed medical assistance.
On the other hand, the 60-year-old pet owner was arrested for possessing a dangerously out-of-control dog and has since been bailed but with conditions.
This is not the only case of a fatal attack involving this dog breed in the country.
Earlier this year, a senior citizen also died after trying to stop a fight between her Bullies.
In an August 2023 article, The Guardian reported that six of the ten fatal dog attacks in the UK last year involved an American XL Bully.
Bully Watch, a group that supports banning large bullies, also reported that this breed is responsible for 20% of the total dog attacks in the country this year alone, while 18% involved American Bully mixes.
‘Devil Dog' Breed or Irresponsible Dog Ownership?
The call to ban American XL Bullies in the UK sparked a debate between dog advocates and those supporting the ban.
In his Daily Mail article, British politician Sir John Hayes wrote, “The American Bully XL is a monstrous killer that MUST be banned—we must outlaw this breed before more innocent people are killed.”
Dog behavior expert Stan Rawlinson also said that the XL bully is “the most dangerous dog breed” he has ever seen in a BBC Radio 4 Today interview.
Rawlinson added that there is “something wrongly wired” with it and that it should be banned.
Tabloids also jumped on the bandwagon, with headlines labeling large bully breeds as “devil dogs” or “terror on our streets.”
As of this writing, a petition urging the UK government to prohibit the selling, breeding, and owning American XL bullies has reached more than 25,000 signatures.
On the flip side, advocates and experts are campaigning to end breed-specific bans, saying it's not a reliable solution and only results in the unnecessary death of innocent ones.
Instead, the Dog Control Coalition, consisting of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, and the Royal Kennel Club, points to “irresponsible breeding, rearing, and ownership.”
RSPCA also stated that “dog aggression is highly complex, and taking a breed-focused approach is fundamentally flawed.”
On its website, the American Veterinary Medical Association said that the “individual history of the dog, their behavior, size, and number of dogs involved determines the likelihood of a bite—not the breed.”
The association also pointed out that breed-specific legislation is ‘discriminatory against responsible owners' and does not ‘address the social issue of irresponsible pet ownership.'
UK Legislation on Banning Dog Breeds
The Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 prohibits and restricts people from owning, breeding, or selling ‘dogs belonging to types of bred for fighting,' as well as other types of dogs that threaten the public.
This aims ‘to rid the country of the menace of these fighting dogs.'
Currently, four dog breeds are banned in the UK—the Pitbull terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino, and the Fila Brasileiro.
However, critics say this law is insufficient to deal with negligent owners, who are often culpable for dog attacks.
American XL Bully will be the 5th if the call to ban its breed pushes through.
But there will be technicalities that lawmakers need to address first.
The American XL Bully is not a recognized breed by the Kennel Club. This means identifying it is difficult, and its ban could unintentionally outlaw other dogs that look similar to it.
“That’s the mess we got into with pit bulls,” Dr. Dave Martin said, a leading veterinarian who also acts as an expert witness in court cases involving dangerous dogs. “And we ended up with hundreds of dogs locked up in police kennels because they might be a pit bull.”
“We need to be looking at a multifaceted approach to reducing these attacks,” Dr. Martin added.
The Home Secretary's spokesperson said that the government is looking into meeting with police and dog experts to discuss the possible banning of American XL Bullies.
Adding another breed to the banned list falls under the responsibility of Environment Secretary Therese Coffey.
Dog Aggression: A Possible Case of Bad Pet Ownership
While it's true that some dogs have a biological inclination to get more aggressive than others, a study from the University of Córdoba in Spain proved that ‘breed has little to do with a dog's aggressive behavior compared to all the owner-dependant factors.'
According to the study, some of the factors that cause aggressiveness in dogs are:
- first-time dog ownership
- failure to subject the dog to basic obedience training
- spoiling or pampering the dog
- not using physical punishment when it is required
- buying a dog as a present, as a guard dog, or on impulse
- spaying female dogs
- leaving the dog with a constant supply of food
- spending very little time with the dog in general
Owners are more involved with how their dogs behave in public and with other people.
Whether they are well-socialized or a menace in the neighborhood, their ‘upbringing' plays the biggest role in their behavior.
For a science-based explanation of dog aggression, you can read this article.
You can also learn more about dog aggression and how to handle it in the following articles:
- How Can You Tell if a Dog is Aggressive
- Unfairly Labeled: 20 Aggressive Dog Breeds That Are Often Misunderstood and Misrepresented
- Best Training For An Aggressive Dog: 8 Tips
Sadly, American XL Bullies have always been subjected to prejudice and unfair treatment because of their history and intimidating appearance.
Here at Top Dog Tips, we always advocate for responsible pet ownership, whatever breed, size, or type of dog you have.
What do you think?
Do you think banning this breed's ownership is fair, or are American XL Bullies just deeply misunderstood?
Let us know in the comments section!