XL bully dogs will be subject to an outright ban in Britain following an amnesty period after the breed was linked to 10 deaths since 2021.
Rishi Sunak announced plans to ban the breed hours after Ian Price, 52, was fatally mauled by two suspected XL bully dogs close to a primary school in Stonnall, Staffordshire.
The Prime Minister said the breed was a “danger to our communities, particularly children” and that ministers would draw up plans to bring in new laws prohibiting ownership of the dogs by the end of the year.
“It’s clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs. It’s a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on,” he said.
The new ban is likely to be based on the ban on pitbulls which was introduced in the 1990s, according to senior Government sources.
Once the law has been changed there is expected to be an amnesty lasting roughly one year during which owners of XL bullies can apply to keep their dog by showing they fulfil certain conditions.
After the amnesty period has expired, expected in 2025, any of the dogs which have not passed the conditions will be put down and it will be illegal to breed or import any new XL bullies.
During the amnesty, dogs will also be subject to certain restrictions including being neutered, muzzled in public and kept on the lead at all times.
The Dangerous Dogs Act passed into law on 12 August 1991, three months after six-year-old Rukhsana Khan was attacked by a pitbull in Bradford in May of that year.
Under the Act, owners of dogs that attack people can be prosecuted, and face a maximum fine of £5,000 or two years imprisonment.
The act currently bans four types of dogs – pit bull terriers, Japanese Toser, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.
XL Bullies, which are not currently defined as a breed in the UK, have now been linked to 10 deaths, including three children, in the UK since 2021.
Staffordshire Police confirmed the dogs involved in the fatal attack on Mr Price on Thursday are believed to be XL bullies. A 30-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and being in charge of dogs dangerously out of control.
A woman living in Stonnall – who asked not to be named – said the dogs responsible for the attack on Mr Price were well-known in the village and had been the subject of numerous complaints to police because of their behaviour for “a really long time”.
“This shouldn’t have happened,” she told i. “They were just kept in the man’s flat, they would just keep escaping…one time somebody was chased into the pub.”
Earlier this month, shocking footage filmed in Birmingham showed an American bully attacking an 11-year-old girl, prompting Home Secretary Suella Braverman to seek “urgent advice” on whether the breed should be banned.
But experts have raised concerns over the effectiveness of an all-out ban on American XL bullies amid warnings breeders will swerve it by creating new “Frankenstein monster” cross-breeds.
Stan Rawlinson, a dog behaviourist who acted as an expert witness for the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, suggested that owners should instead have to apply for a special licence that would subject them to criminal and mental health checks as well as being forced to buy a £500,000 insurance policy.
Mr Rawlinson told i: “It needs something far more subtle than just a ban. My personal belief is these dogs should be registered as a potentially dangerous breed.
“You have to lay out the description of the dogs – shape, size – it won’t be bred. That’s the problem, they will just cross it with something else.”
Figures show the number of deaths from attacks by all dog breeds has risen from four in 2021, to ten in 2022 and a further five so far in 2023. Ten of these are now linked to XL bullies, including the deaths of 10-year-old Jack Lis and 17-month-old Bella-Rae Birch by XL bullies.
Following the death of Mr Price, the father of a 10-year-old boy mauled by a Staffordshire bull terrier as he played football outside his home released footage of the attack to raise awareness of the danger of out-of-control dogs.
Mohammad Sami Raza could be seen on CCTV footage playing on the front drive of his family home in Bentley Drive, Walsall, when he was attacked at around 7.35pm on Wednesday.
Adding dogs to the banned list is the responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
They are set to convene experts to define the breed before a consultation leading to new legislation by the end of this year.
Mr Sunak said he had ordered ministers to bring together police and experts to define the breed of dog behind these attacks so they can then be outlawed.
Prof Carri Westgarth, Professor in Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Liverpool, said, defining the breed of the XL bully was “key” to a ban working.
“Proving a dog’s particular breed is difficult, especially when that breed is not recognised by most Kennel Clubs, and looks similar to other breeds,” she said.
“This has complicated the application of the current legislation concerning pitbull types, and likely will again with XL bullies, which are also just one size type of the American Bully.”
Much more intervention and legislation were needed than simply banning one breed if dog bites were to be reduced, she added.
Lord Baker, the former Home Secretary who introduced the 1991 Act, said the dogs should be neutered or destroyed “as soon as possible”.
He told LBC: “When I introduced the act Pitbull Terriers over the following acts slowly disappeared, and many were destroyed. And that is what has got to happen again with this dog as soon as possible.
Any of the dogs that do survive, should be “totally muzzled the entire time”, he added.
A coalition of animal charities, including the RSPCA and the Kennel Club, insist that banning American XL bully dogs would not stop attacks.
A spokeswoman for the Dog Control Coalition said: “For 32 years, the Dangerous Dogs Act has focused on banning types of dog and yet has coincided with an increase in dog bites, and the recent deaths show that this approach isn’t working.
“The UK Government must tackle the root issue by dealing with the unscrupulous breeders who are putting profit before welfare, and the irresponsible owners whose dogs are dangerously out of control.”
The group, which also includes the Dogs Trust and British Veterinary Association, said it was “deeply concerned about the lack of data behind this decision and its potential to prevent dog bites”.