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Will the American Bully XL be banned? How many UK attacks have involved the dog breed and what happens next

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is pushing for a ban on American XL Bully dogs after one mauled an 11-year-old girl and two men on Sunday.

She called the dogs a “clear and lethal” danger after a video of the attack in Bordesley Green was shared on TikTok. The dog bit the young girl as she ran past it, and then attacked two men who intervened to help her.

All three were taken to hospital, and the men were left with injuries to their shoulders and arms.

West Midlands Police said it is investigating the incident but is yet to make any arrests.

What is the American XL Bully?

The American Bully is a variation of the American Bulldog, a crossbreed that shares its genetic stock with the Pit Bull Terrier. Those larger than 50cm tall are classed as XL.

The Bully is mixed with other breeds such as the Mastiff to give it greater size and strength. There have been reports that owners are “tinkering” with DNA by breeding it with other dogs to create “mutant crossbreeds”.

Dr Candy d’Sa, an animal behaviour consultant and expert in animal law, previously told i the breed was often being used as a “status” dog for criminals, many had no paper trail and weren’t registered.

How many attacks have they been involved in?

The breed has been linked to nine deaths in the past two years in the UK:

Jack Lis, aged 10, November 2021 in Caerphilly, Gwent. Fatally attacked while at a friend’s house.

Adam Watts, aged 55, December 2021, in Dundee, Scotland. Died after being attacked at a dog kennel.

Bella-Rae Birch, aged 17 months, March 2022 in St Helens, Merseyside. Died after being attacked at home by a dog her family had owned for a week.

Keven Jones, aged 62, May 2022 in Wrexham. Bitten by his son’s dog called Cookie and died of blood loss.

Joanne Robinson, aged 43, July 2022 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Killed by Rocco, a dog described by her mother as “bigger than a lion”.

Ian Symes, aged 34, August 2022. Fareham, Hampshire. Killed while walking a Bully called Kong that weighed 52kg.

Shirley Patrick, aged 83, December 2022 in Caerphilly, south Wales. Grandmother with dementia mauled to death.

Natasha Johnston, aged 28, January 2023 in Caterham, Surrey. Died after being attacked while walking eight dogs including a Bully.

Jonathan Hogg, aged 37, May 2023 in Leigh, Greater Manchester. Police have seized 15 dogs and £37,500 in cash as part of their investigation into his death.

Could the dogs be banned in the UK?

Ms Braverman wrote on social media: “The American XL Bully is a clear and lethal danger to our communities, particularly to children. We can’t go on like this. I have commissioned urgent advice on banning them.”

Some breeds of dog are banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dog Act, which was introduced in 1991 following a spate of fatal incidents involving dogs.

Under the legislation, there are four types of dog breed currently banned in the UK:

  • Pitbull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro

The law makes it illegal to own, sell, breed, give away or abandon any of these dogs. If someone is caught with a banned dog, the police or a dog warden have the legal right to confiscate it, even if it hasn’t behaved dangerously and no complaint has been made. They require a warrant to seize the dog if it’s on private property.

Being a newer, hybrid breed XL Bully dogs are not currently covered by the Dangerous Dogs Act. There are reportedly concerns with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – which is responsible for the act – does not think adding it to the ban list is feasible.

This is because the American XL Bully is not recognised as a specific breed by the Kennel Club, meaning it could be hard to define, and a ban could inadvertently outlaw a range of other dogs.

The RSPCA has also warned that a ban could drive ownership further underground.

Dr d’Sa said a ban would be difficult to implement, because American Bullies range in size and strength and are crossbreeds, so could be difficult to identify.

“You get micro bullies through to extreme bullies and the size difference is incredible,” she said.

“So what do you do, do you legislate them over a certain height, and how do they police that? They are literally going to have to carry a tape measure around – I just can’t imagine how they are going to be able to ban them.”

Dr Samantha Gaines, a dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, said earlier this year: “Any dog, regardless of their breed, has the potential to bite, and whether or not a dog develops aggressive behaviour is a complex interaction between genetics and lifetime experiences. Adding additional dogs to the current list of prohibited types, or measures which seek to manage certain types of dog because they are believed to be more dangerous than others, will not effectively protect the public.”

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