The debate surrounding the American XL bully breed has intensified following a series of attacks, including a harrowing incident involving an 11-year-old girl. The UK is currently grappling with the question: Should this breed be banned, or is the problem a broader issue of dog ownership and training?
Incident Sparks Nationwide Debate
In a quiet neighborhood of Birmingham, a typical day turned tragic when an American bully XL dog set upon an 11-year-old girl. The 11-year-old girl, Ana Paun, suffered a bite when she ran past the dog being walked by its owner in Bordesley Green.
Two men, witnessing the scene, bravely intervened and also sustained dog bites on their arms and shoulders. All three were swiftly taken to a local hospital, with the community left in shock. Authorities placed the dog in secure kennels, and the police have questioned the owner.
Government’s Stance: A Ban on the Horizon?
The severity of the incident prompted an immediate response. Home secretary Suella Braverman didn’t mince her words, declaring her intent to advocate for a ban on this breed, which she dubbed a “clear and lethal danger,” especially to children.
This is appalling. 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.
— Suella Braverman MP (@SuellaBraverman) September 10, 2023
However, the final call lies with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). Notably, neither the American Kennel Club nor the Kennel Club currently recognize the specific breed, adding another layer of complexity to the situation.
The American Bully: A Brief Insight into the Breed
The American bully dog, which is developed from the American pit bull terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, became a recognized breed in 2004 by the American Bully Kennel Club and rapidly gained popularity. With its muscular physique and imposing presence, it’s a breed that commands attention.
This muscular dog breed makes an “excellent family dog,” according to the United Kennel Club. While they may have a powerful appearance, their demeanor is generally gentle and friendly. However, it’s worth noting that dog aggression can be a characteristic of this breed.
Available in various sizes, the XL version, which is at the heart of the current controversy, has been linked to a significant number of attacks. According to recent data, a staggering 60% of fatal dog attacks in the UK in 2022 were attributed to this breed.
Voices of Concern: Calls for Immediate Action
The alarming statistics have not gone unnoticed. Organizations like Bully Watch have been closely monitoring attacks by breed and point out that almost half of all attacks involve either an American bully XL or its mix.
The primary purpose of the Dangerous Dogs Act, introduced in 1991, was to supervise and regulate certain breeds of dogs deemed to be dangerous. The act identified specific breeds as “banned” breeds and placed restrictions on their ownership, breeding, and control.
Prominent figures, like Tory former minister Sir John Hayes, have joined the chorus, urging for the breed to be added to the banned list, which currently includes the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro.
Causes of the Spike in Dog Attacks
Since the American bully breed originated by cross-breeding American Pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers, these fearsome dogs have been involved in several dog bite incidents and fatal attacks.
A recent study revealed a significant increase in dog attack-related deaths last year, with 10 fatalities in England and Wales, compared to an average of three in previous years.
Understanding the root cause of this rise isn’t straightforward. One major challenge lies in the interchangeable use of the terms “bite” and “attack,” which can encompass a wide range of incidents, from severe injuries to minor wounds requiring just a few stitches.
Another hurdle is the absence of precise records regarding the number and breeds of dogs in the UK, relying instead on estimates. Additionally, many dog attacks go unreported.
Dr. Tulloch, lecturer in Veterinary Public Health, pointed out, “We lack comprehensive data about the composition of the millions of dogs in the UK and regional variations. For instance, in Liverpool, where dog bites are a significant issue, the dog population likely differs significantly from that in Cornwall.”
“Ultimately, we lack the necessary information to definitively assess the situation.”
The Counter-Argument: Breed or Deed?
However, it’s essential to understand that the conversation isn’t one-sided. The RSPCA and UK Kennel Club argue that focusing on a breed-specific ban might not address the root problem. They advocate for a “deed not breed” approach, suggesting that it’s crucial to consider individual dog actions over general breed tendencies.
Robert Alleyne, the founder of Canine Instructor Academy, says a ban ‘is just an easy answer for the government’ and instead we ‘should be looking at the type of people getting these dogs.’
Furthermore, the current breed-based legislation has been criticized for being ineffective and causing unnecessary financial strain.
It’s undeniable that breed-specific bans lead to heart-wrenching consequences. Innocent dogs, merely because of their breed, have been euthanized, highlighting a flaw in the system. Organizations like the Dogs Trust call for a comprehensive, breed-neutral law that focuses on prevention and emphasizes owner responsibility over breed discrimination.
The Government’s Clarification
In light of the intensifying debate, junior environment minister Lord Benyon has provided clarity. Currently, there are no plans to extend the banned list. Defra reiterates the importance of existing laws that penalize any dog that poses a threat, emphasizing dog owners’ responsibility.
Moving Forward: A Balanced Approach?
The American Bullies are prohibited in the United Arab Emirates, France, and Turkey. American Bully dog is also subject to restrictions in various countries, including Ireland.
The debate surrounding the American XL bully highlights the broader issue of responsible pet ownership and public safety. A one-size-fits-all approach might not be the solution. As the nation grapples with this challenge, the ultimate goal remains clear: ensuring safety while avoiding unwarranted breed discrimination.
The American XL bully controversy serves as a potent reminder of the challenges of balancing public safety with responsible pet ownership. As the debate rages on, it is hoped that a comprehensive solution will be reached, protecting both humans and the dogs we cherish.
To ensure safety and harmony, understanding, training, and empathy are essential. Let’s strive for a future where both humans and their four-legged companions can coexist peacefully.