“Panicked” XL Bully owners are having their dogs destroyed and dumping them at rescue centres following the Government’s announcement that the breed will be banned, experts have said.
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday that the breed would be added to the Dangerous Dogs list by the end of the year after it was linked to a spate of attacks in recent years, at least ten of which were fatal.
Ian Price, 52, died after he was set upon by two dogs, believed to be XL Bullys, in the village of Stonnall, Staffordshire, last week.
XL Bullys are also thought to be responsible for two other attacks in the West Midlands in the same week including an incident which saw an 11-year-old girl suffer serious injuries.
Mike Barnett, a former police dog handler who now runs Orion Dog Services, said Mr Sunak’s statement has caused confusion this weekend with many XL Bully owners wrongly believing they have already been outlawed.
“At the moment there’s people that think the ban has already happened and they’re wanting to put their dogs to sleep,” he told i.
“There’s some people who realise it’s not immediate but they’re panicking because they don’t know what form it’s going to come in.
“People are all over the place because there’s no information out there.
“It’s just caused everybody who’s got a large breed dog to panic, that’s where we are the moment.”
‘I’m moving to Spain, it’s disgusting’
One owner of an XL Bully, who asked to be named, told i he has been left devastated by the news of the upcoming ban.
“I’m heartbroken,” he said.
“I’ve been crying, they’re taking everything away from me.
“I’m going to move to Spain in the next six weeks to get out of this country, they’re not taking my dogs away from me.”
The XL Bully owner has shared a video on his Facebook page of his dog being being hugged and walked on a lead by his young daughter.
He also said the government needs to issue more advice for XL Bully owners on what they should do next.
“I love my dogs, I would do anything for them,” the man added.
“They’ve not done anything wrong, they’ve never harmed anybody.
“I feel sick, I’ve put everything into these dogs, it’s my entire life.
“Nobody knows what to do, XL Bully owners are getting rid of them, they’re neutering them, there needs to be more information to give people peace of mind.”
“People are seeking information from here, there and everywhere.
“I’ve heard through the dog world grapevine that rescue centres are getting phone calls saying ‘can you take my dog off me?’
“People are going to their vet saying can you spay my dog?
“There’s people already doing all sorts of things because of what was said on Friday.”
Mr Barnett is among a number of experts advising XL Bully owners that the best thing they can do pending further government information is start muzzle training and get their pet neutered.
XL Bullys are not yet definied in law and the government will have to come up with an agreed definition before they can be added to the Dangerous Dogs list.
Once this happens, it is possible owners may still be able to keep their pet if they are able to succesfully apply for an exemption certificate.
However, owners are being warned that this requires a court hearing and there is already a backlog of cases waiting to be considered.
Debbie Connolly, a dog behaviourist, urged XL Bully owners to think carefully before taking action.
She wrote on Facebook: “I have seen alarming posts already saying people have destroyed their dogs, vets are refusing to treat them, dogs dumped.
“The law has not changed yet, do not panic.”
Jayne Dendle, from the campaign group ‘Save Our Seized Dogs’, lost her friend Adam Watts after he was mauled to death by a cross breed in Auchterhouse, Scotland, in 2021.
She said she has been “indundated” with XL Bully owners asking for help.
“They have the most beautiful, well behaved, well trained dogs and they’re just in bits at the thought their dog is at risk,” Ms Dendle told i.
“We’ve told them about neutering, muzzling, we hope there will be an amnesty period.
“There are XL Bully owners who are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their dogs.
“I think it [the ban] will do more harm than good.
“The irresponsible owners don’t care, theyre just going to dump them, they’re not going to register them or get them neutered.
“They are just going to dump them if they can’t find a rescue and we may well have an influx of unbalanced dogs being released onto the streets.
“It’s just a mess.
“These owners are just going to cut and run, they’re not going to take a dog to be put to sleep responsibly at the vet, they are going to either keep them locked up in a kennel and keep breeding them and trying to get rid of them under a different name, or they’re going to let them loose on the streets.”
Speaking on Friday, Chief Veterinary Officer Professor Christine Middlemiss said that XL Bully owners will not be subject to a mass cull and coming to a “consensus” on the definition of the breed will be the first step.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “There will be an amnesty. So people that already have these dogs – and some of them will be well socialised, well managed, well trained – you will need to register and take certain actions.
“Your dog will need to be neutered. It will need to be muzzled when out in public and on a lead and insured.
“But if you comply with these actions, and that means we’ll know where these dogs are, which will be a massive benefit, then yes, absolutely you will be able to keep your dog.”
Such an approach would echo that taken when pitbulls were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act in the 1990s.
The decision was welcomed by campaigners but other groups – including the RSPCA and the Kennel Club – said banning American XL Bully dogs would not stop attacks.
Lord Baker, the architect of the Act during the Sir John Major era, said American XL Bully dogs should be “neutered or destroyed” once the ban has come into force, with any permitted to live being “muzzled for the entire time”.