Here in Britain, a debate is unfolding. It’s not about Brexit, Tory politics, the economy, or even the weather. It’s about dogs and, specifically, the American Bully XL. The core question is simple: should we ban this breed?
The alarming statistics
Recent figures have brought this debate to the forefront of British consciousness. Of the 10 British people killed by dogs in 2022, half were mauled by the new “super-breed” of dogs which includes American XL Bullies. Moreover, campaigners have linked the dogs to at least 14 human deaths since 2021. A concerning report suggests that American XL Bullies have been involved in 44 per cent of attacks on people in 2023, and a staggering 75 per cent of fatalities since 2021. This is especially concerning when one considers that they make up only about 1 per cent of the UK dog population.
Here’s a chart of that categorises dog attacks by breed this year (2023):
The concerns of breed popularity and media influence
Many of us envision the loyal Labrador or the playful Spaniel when we think of dogs. However, there’s an emerging trend of ‘Instagrammable’ dogs. Breeds gaining popularity due to their media portrayal. The problem arises when these breeds, showcased in perfect frames on our screens, enter homes without the necessary understanding of their needs. Breeds like the American Bully XL, Belgian Malinois, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier aren’t just any pets; they require dedicated care, understanding, and knowledgeable ownership.
It’s not too difficult to imagine young, impressionable men and sometimes women who see these sorts of images on Instagram and TikTok deciding that they too would like a cool dog to either show off with their athleticism and feats of strength.
The often overlooked victims: Other dogs
While the threat to humans is real and pressing, we must also consider the danger faced by other dogs. Law lecturer Dr Lawrence Newport, who has been tracking the rise in fatal attacks by XL Bullies, shared a harrowing statistic: in one week in July this year, one dog was killed every day by the breed on average. Dr Newport remarked on the brutality of these incidents, saying, “They were ripped to shreds and others given injuries they can never really recover from.”
The privilege of dog ownership
Owning a dog is a commitment. When an animal with potential harm, either from its size, strength, or temperament, enters your life, it’s your duty to ensure it’s managed well. The American Bully XL, with its formidable presence, can be a delight in a loving home but equally poses a risk if untrained. This isn’t about vilifying a breed but recognising the responsibility attached to owning such a dog.
Licensing as a middle ground
An outright ban is a hefty measure, potentially unfair to diligent owners. However, there’s a middle ground: licensing. By recognising breeds with heightened risk factors, the UK can introduce a licensing system, ensuring potential owners are well-equipped for the task. This system could involve mandatory training, checks, and even an assessment, similar to a driving test.
Furthermore, to reinforce the effectiveness of this licensing regime, it should be illegal for breeders or sellers to provide one of these “licensed” breeds to an unlicensed owner. This additional layer ensures that the responsibility doesn’t just lie with potential owners but also with those who bring these breeds into the world. By doing so, we create a more holistic approach to dog ownership, ensuring every party involved plays their part in safeguarding both the public and the animal.
A call for considered action
The American Bully XL debate is complex. Yet, the need for action is undeniable. As a nation of dog lovers, we owe it to our pets and ourselves to ensure a safe environment. By introducing licensing and holding breeders accountable, we can find a middle ground that respects the rights of responsible owners while prioritising safety.
Britain’s policymakers have a responsibility to act, with countless responsible dog “parents” watching their decision closely.