UK pet owners could face a tough road if they own a certain breed of dog, thanks to a new ban proposed by government officials.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Friday plan to ban what it calls the “American XL Bully” dog from the UK after a series of attacks blamed on the breed. This bill would not only make it a crime to own, breed, donate or sell an XL bully, but it may also give authorities permission to seize animals even if they have no record of aggression.
While owners would be able to apply for a court-ordered exemption, they could also face hefty fines and potential jail time.
Sunak called the dogs “a danger to our communities” during the announcement, where he also shared that the rule will go into effect by the end of the year.
The bill would add the American XL Bully breed to the existing list under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which currently bans the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Brazilian Fila.
However, the “American XL Bully” is not a breed recognized by the UK Kennel Club and has not been otherwise defined, meaning officials must first determine under certain conditions which dogs qualify as part of the breed.
According to a published statement according to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, the government plans to “convene experts to define the ‘American XL bully’ breed type. This group will include the police, canine and veterinary experts and animal welfare stakeholders .”
in other statements, she referred to a series of recent attacks, including a deadly attack on Thursday and one earlier in the month 11 year old girl. “Dog attacks are devastating for victims and their families and it is clear that more needs to be done now to stop them and protect the public,” the statement said. “That’s why we’re taking decisive action to ban the American XL Bully.”
Chief Veterinary Officer of the United Kingdom Dr. Christine Middlemiss he told the BBC at the weekend that an “amnesty” plan would be introduced, requiring owners who already have dogs to adhere to firm guidelines. The behavior of your family pet will require it to be registered with the government, muzzled and on a lead when outside at all times, and the purchase of insurance.
“But if you comply with these actions, and that means we will know where these dogs are, which will be a huge benefit, then yes, absolutely you will be able to keep your dog,” she told the paper.
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Experts, citizens react to the proposed ban
While several groups advocated for the ban, especially after a series of suspected attacks, experts including veterinary groups and international animal welfare organizations spoke out against it. Petition called “Bad owners are to blame, not the breed – don’t ban the XL Bully” it also gained widespread support, gaining more than half a million signatures within days.
Spokesman from Dog Control Coalition, made up of the RSPCA, Blue Cross, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Hope Rescue, Scottish SPCA, The Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association, said in an emailed statement: “The recent incidents are deeply concerning and our thoughts are with all those involved. and the disabled. The highest priority for all involved is to protect the public – but unfortunately banning this breed will not stop these types of incidents from happening again.”
The organization criticized the proposed legislation for what it called a lack of data and evidence. In the more than 30 years since the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act, the number of dog bites and attacks has increased, according to the organisation. That’s because banning certain breeds doesn’t address the root problems, which they say are unscrupulous breeders and irresponsible owners.
“The Coalition urges the Prime Minister to work with them to fully understand the far-reaching implications of his decision to ban XL XL, which will have a significant impact on owners, the animal welfare sector, vets, law enforcement and the public.”
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Could a similar ban on the bully breed happen in the US?
Breed restrictions are not entirely uncommon in the US and are sometimes written into housing contracts, insurance plans and city ordinances. Sometimes the restrictions go down to the state level, which organizations like Animal Legal Protection Fund (ALDF) to actively fight against.
According to ALDF Strategic Legislative Affairs Manager Alicia Prygoski, The reason experts fight against these blanket bans is that they are ineffective and ignore other, more successful techniques.
“Restricting dogs based on their appearance or perceived breed is a drastic reactionary policy move that is ineffective and has the potential to tear families apart and put countless dogs and responsible guardians at risk,” she told USA TODAY. “There are safe alternatives, there are alternatives that will help make communities safer and protect both dogs and people.”
Prygosk shared that instead of restrictive breeding policies, lawmakers should focus on education, guardian responsibility and neuter dangerous dog laws. These would include things like enforcing leash laws, targeting unscrupulous dog owners and breeders, protecting animals from abuse and fighting, and strengthening community education and resources regarding proper and responsible dog ownership.
“Studies have shown that when these alternatives are preferred over a breed-based restriction, the incidence of aggression and biting is reduced,” Prygosk said.
While she called the news from the U.K. disappointing, she said trends here in the U.S. are more encouraging. In recent years, governments at all levels across the country have moved to repeal what Prygosk called “outdated” regulations restricting or banning breeds.
Several states, such as Florida, Illinois, and Colorado, have also introduced legislation to prohibit local governments from creating breed-restrictive policies and prohibit the same restrictions on insurance coverage and public housing.
At the federal level, Pet law runs in the family was reintroduced to Congress in June that would prohibit breed-based restrictions on pets in public housing.
“It’s really clear that there is momentum to remove these outdated breed-based restrictions, and there is significant recognition that alternatives to these policies are more effective at keeping communities safe,” Prygosk said. “It’s a really encouraging trend that we’re seeing across the country and we’re going to continue to fight to make sure it continues.”
While there are still some municipalities in the U.S. that have these restrictions, Prygosk said the overall trend is going in the opposite direction. A ban similar to the one proposed in the UK is highly unlikely to come into force here, she said, as more and more of our existing dog breed laws are being pushed back.
“We hope that as we work to end these unfair policies at all levels of government, these communities will see that shifting the focus away from the dog breed towards responsible dog control and healthy breed neutral laws will actually keep communities safer,” Prygosk said.