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Banning XL Bullies, why the ban is a controversial topic

Banning XL bullies, here are a few points explaining why many behaviourists and animal rescue/welfare organisations are against breed specific bans. The current law refers to banning certain breeds of dogs or specific dog types that are considered aggressive or dangerous, included in these is the Pit Bull Terrier. There is no doubt that XL Bully's have been responsible for some of the recent and devastating attacks and fatalities in the UK over the past few years. There sheer size and power makes it incredibly difficult to fight off a dog that is intent on attack when triggered. However the issue of why these dogs are doing this is not being made front and centre of the latest headlines.

  1. Lack of Effective Enforcement: Enforcing a ban on specific breeds or types of dogs can be challenging and resource-intensive. Many dog breeds have a diverse gene pool, making it difficult to accurately identify them solely based on appearance. Determining a dog's breed can often be subjective and prone to error, XL Bully are not a recognised breed in the UK and are considered a crossbreed dog. Looking at dog selling pages, some breeders (most are unlicensed with the local council) are highlighting that the dog was bred with 'such n such' champion from the USA, often with some tough guy kennel name. There is a dog that is desirable as a sire who is known for aggressive tendencies - this is appealing to people looking for dogs that they want to fight or use for protection. Most pet dog owners will not be looking for this particular element but may be unaware of any genetic link. The genetic link may not obvious in terms of the look of a dog which the ban will be focusing on as part of its exclusion.

  2. Focus on the Wrong Problem: Banning specific breeds or types of dogs does not address the root causes of dog aggression. Aggressive behaviour in dogs is primarily influenced by factors such as some genetic factors, socialisation, training, and the owner's responsibility. A ban on certain breeds may divert attention away from responsible ownership and training practices. It is a known fact that this dog is attractive to some people looking to bolster their status and often used for protection. There have been documentaries focusing on the fact that these dogs are used for fighting and drug protection by those with no interest in the dogs welfare. The people that want to own aggressive dogs for these purposes will just find another breed, create a hybrid, to design the next large power dog, which does not fit the ban and the cycle starts again.

  3. Misidentification and Discrimination: Breed-specific bans can lead to misidentification of dogs, which can result in well-behaved and non-aggressive dogs being unfairly targeted simply because they resemble a banned breed. This can lead to discrimination against responsible dog owners and their pets.

  4. Behavioural Variability: Dogs of the same breed can have widely varying temperaments and behaviours. Factors like genetics, early socialisation, training, and individual personality play a significant role in determining a dog's behaviour. Banning a breed does not account for these variations. Having a quick look on pet selling websites over the weekend, the prices reductions have started to happen as breeders realise their dogs may not be so desirable. The same goes for people looking to rehome their dogs, I have also heard that some vets have been getting panic calls regarding what could happen and do they need to neuter or consider euthanasia of their dogs. We do not know what the ban will encompass at the moment, and there are suggestions of exemptions. I hope there will be some well thought out assessments of temperament and welfare considerations of the dogs and their owners.

  5. Ownership Responsibility: Focusing on responsible dog ownership, education, and training is a more effective approach to reducing dog bite incidents. Encouraging owners to properly socialise and train their dogs and provide adequate care and supervision can have a positive impact on reducing aggression in all breeds.

  6. Potential for Black Market: Banning specific breeds can lead to an underground market for these dogs, we know this happened with Pit Bulls in the 90's. At the time I worked in a vet clinic with a forensic vet, we would occasionally get confiscated Pit Bulls from the police that have come from fighting kennels for breed identification, meaning they were measured to see if they fitted the Pit Bull breed type. These were not pet dogs, they were pure fighting dogs, or sadder still, stooge dogs for the fights. Heart-breaking to see them and of course on a one way journey once the cases had been through the courts. The people who had them only see these dogs as cash cows for violence or as a way of protecting their drugs, which were kept under the kennels! I'm sure that this is still very much happening with these types of dog today.

  7. Resources Diverted from Effective Solutions: Banning specific breeds may consume resources that could be better used for enforcing existing animal control laws, funding animal behaviour and training programs, and supporting animal shelters and rescue organisations. The law as it stands is not being enforced, we have laws in existence that could take these more aggressive dogs off the streets under (section 10(3) Dangerous Dogs Act 1991) A dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog, whether or not it actually does so. This means a perceived threat can be reported, such as being barked or growled at or lunged towards, contact by biting does not always need to be made to feel at risk at risk.

To reduce dog bite incidents and fatalities effectively, it is generally more productive to focus on comprehensive, breed-neutral approaches, such as promoting responsible pet ownership, increasing public awareness about dog behaviour and safety, enforcing existing laws, and providing resources for training and socialisation programs. This ensures that everyone with a dog takes full responsibility and care for their dogs behaviour. There are plenty of responsible owner out there with large breeds who take full responsibility of them. Owners of large breeds often have to ensure they they are able to have a great level of dog knowledge and a well trained dog, they can't hold onto the other end of the lead and hope for the best without being dragged into dangerous situations. Hopefully the government can address these measures and contribute to a safer environment for both people and dogs.

If you own dog that might be subject to the ban then starting muzzle training is an absolute must. There are suggestions that the ban may be similar to the conditions that came in for Pit Bulls, meaning, a register, muzzle and lead in public, microchip and neutering with restrictions on rehoming. There will be a lot of work going on behind the scenes but being prepared now will help you when it does come in place.


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