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Which dog breeds are illegal in the UK? Braverman seeks ban on American Bully XL

The American Bully is a newer version of the American bulldog and varies in size (Lars Nissen / Pixabay)
The American Bully is a newer version of the American bulldog and varies in size (Lars Nissen / Pixabay)

Following a string of incidents involving the breed in recent years, with the most recent one on Saturday, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, claims she is seeking “urgent advice” on outlawing “lethal” American Bully XL dogs.

An 11-year-old girl was bitten as the dog was being walked in Bordesley Green in Birmingham on Saturday, and West Midlands Police are looking into the incident.

When two males stepped in, they were bitten as well, suffering arm and shoulder injuries.

The dog was brought to a nearby vet for examination before being moved to secure kennels while the investigation was ongoing.

Additionally, police have spoken with the dog’s owner.

Following the social media dissemination of phone footage of the assault, Ms Braverman posted on X, that, “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.”

Although the American Bully XL is closely related to the prohibited pit bull terrier breed, it is not currently constrained by any laws.

Dogs have hit the headlines in recent months for all the wrong reasons, following the death of a south London woman and the shooting of two dogs by Met police in May.

Natasha Johnston’s American Bully XL was among eight animals the 28-year-old was walking when she was attacked in Surrey.

The dog was found to be responsible for her death following a forensic veterinary report, and it was then euthanised.

Meanwhile, two Staffordshire bull terriers were controversially shot dead by police in Poplar after reports of an attack. A petition has since garnered more than a million signatures, to hold the officers accountable.

In June, a small chihuahua died in an attack by two American XL bully dogs at a West London park.

But what is the law on dangerous dogs and what breeds are banned?

How dangerous is the American Bully dog?

The American Bully is a newer version of the American bulldog and varies in size. They come in four variations — standard, pocket, classic, and XL.

The breed has been responsible for more than 70 per cent of all dog-related deaths in the UK since 2021, as well as the deaths of up to 14 people. And the numbers are rising: In one week of July this year, one dog a day was killed by an American Bully in the UK. There have already been 341 attacks this year alone by the breed.

First-time dog owners are not recommended to own an American Bully if there are children in the household.

Nevertheless, two people killed by the breed this year were experienced dog handlers.

Last month, Jonathan Hogg, a 37-year-old dog carer from Greater Manchester, was playing with an American Bully XL when it attacked him and went for his throat.

He later died in hospital, and Greater Manchester police said the dog “posed a significant risk” to the public.

There are calls for the dog breed to be banned but, currently, they can still be purchased.

Which dog breeds are illegal in the UK?

In the UK, it’s against the law to own certain types of dogs. These are the:

Pit Bull Terrier

The UK's Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 outlawed the possession and breeding of pit bulls. They were originally illegally bred as fighting dogs.

Japanese Tosa

Although it is forbidden in the UK and many other nations, the Japanese Tosa is nevertheless bred in Japan to participate in dog fighting. In accordance with Japanese dog-fighting regulations, this breed is expected to be able to battle in total silence.

Dogo Argentino

The Dogo Argentino was developed for boldness and protective qualities as well as for big-game hunting. Due to these behavioural characteristics as well as its huge, robust form, the Dogo Argentino was outlawed in the UK.

Fila Brasileiro

A huge mastiff-like breed called the Fila Brasileiro was initially raised to chase down fugitive slaves from plantations. Despite the fact that they are fiercely devoted and protective, these dogs have a reputation for being hostile to both people and other animals. They are prohibited in the UK because of this.

It’s also against the law to:

  • sell a banned dog

  • abandon a banned dog

  • give away a banned dog

  • breed from a banned dog

Whether your dog is a banned type depends on what it looks like, rather than its breed or name.

For example, if your dog matches many of the characteristics of a pit bull terrier, it may be a banned type.

What is the Dangerous Dog Act?

The Dangerous Dogs Act came into force in 1991 to try to prevent serious dog attacks.

It bans the owning, selling, giving away, or abandoning of the four outlawed dog breeds, as well as banning any dog which is dangerously out of control.

At the time of its creation, Home Secretary Kenneth Baker said the Act aimed “to rid the country of the menace of these fighting dogs”.