Bully XL dogs: should they be banned?

Goverment under pressure to prohibit breed blamed for series of fatal attacks

American Bully XL
The American Bully XL is closely related to pit bulls and can weigh more than 60kg
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images / Shutterstock)

Three people, including an 11-year-old girl, were viciously attacked by an out-of-control American bully XL dog in Birmingham on Saturday. 

A video showing the attack, which circulated on social media, is "horrific", said Julia Lewis in The Spectator. The child is mauled as she lies on the ground. The dog then turns on two men who intervene, dragging one to the ground before going for his head and neck. 

'Too dangerous to be kept as a pet'

Concern is mounting about American bully dogs, bred by crossing pit bull terriers with other bulldog breeds; the largest type, the bully XL, can weigh more than nine stone. Since 2021, they have caused at least 11 deaths in the UK. That year, Jack Lis, a ten-year-old boy, was killed by an eight-stone XL named Beast, in Caerphilly, South Wales. In response to last weekend's incident, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said that she was seeking "urgent advice" on banning the XL. She must act fast. "A dog capable of such savagery is far too dangerous to be kept as a pet."

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There are often calls for bans after attacks like these, said Zoe Williams in The Guardian. But the RSPCA has always opposed the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which banned pit bulls, among other types, because it was badly thought out; and because if a new breed is added to the banned list, it results in the extermination of thousands of blameless dogs. 

'No bad dogs only bad owners'

Defining dog breeds is hard: most bullys won't come with a pedigree. And deciding which breeds are violent is even harder, said Linda Geddes in the same paper. Powerful dog breeds often appeal to certain types of people. Although unprovoked attacks do happen, irresponsible owners are to blame for nearly all dog attacks.

There are no bad dogs, only bad owners. That's the saying, said Stan Rawlinson in the Daily Mail, but it's "a lie". XLs are fighting dogs, bred to maul and kill. They are aggressive, unpredictable, and so big that they are hard to control. And the Dangerous Dogs Act doesn't require banned breeds to be destroyed, said Shona Craven in The National. Owners can get exemptions by proving that their animal is not dangerous, and taking steps such as using a muzzle. In the light of these attacks, banning bully XLs would be a sensible precaution.

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