Kerry writes for Fishponds Voice, 1st December 2023
I’ve always received lots of emails from constituents about animal welfare. One of the more controversial issues in recent months has been the Government’s plans to ban XL Bully dogs. Opinion has been divided. Some dog-lovers have argued passionately against a ban, but other constituents feel that the recent spate of attacks prove that these dogs are simply too dangerous.
The ban means that from 31 December 2023, it will be illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon or allow XL Bully dogs to stray in England and Wales. Current owners have until the end of January to register them on the index of exempted dogs; they will have to be deemed fit and proper people to own a dog of this type, and they will have to take out third-party insurance. Their dogs will have to be microchipped, neutered, and muzzled and kept on a lead in public. As I understand it, if there comes a point in future when these owners can no longer look after their dogs, they won’t be able to rehome them, and the dogs will have to be put down.
I do think there is a need to do something about XL Bullies. With half of fatal dog attacks coming from the breed in the last three years, the statistics are hard to ignore. I have, however, been contacted by constituents who are absolutely passionate about their XL Bully pets and would vouch for their gentle natures. They argue that there is no such thing as a dangerous dog, only dangerous owners. I agree to an extent, but it is difficult to enforce responsible dog ownership. The authorities don’t usually get involved until there is very clear evidence of neglect or ill-treatment, or until the dog has attacked a person or another dog.
I’ve been told by a vet that Jack Russell terriers and Shih-Tzus are the two breeds responsible for the highest number of dog bites, but of course the problem with XL Bullies is not that they are more likely to attack, but that they can cause such great harm if they do.
Frustratingly, Parliament does not get to vote on this matter, as the Government can just add XL Bullies to the current list of banned breeds under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. This Act has been widely criticised by animal welfare charities. It was passed in a rush, in response to a tragic incident that hit the headlines, which is never a great way to pass laws.
I’d be interested to hear what readers think. Does the proposed law strike the right balance? Or are we wrong to single out some breeds for a ban?