Hundreds of XL bully owners gathered in central London on Saturday (23 September) to protest against the government’s plans to ban the dog breed.
Prime MinisterRishi Sunak announced last week that XL bullies would be added to the UK’s list of prohibited breeds by the end of the year, following a serious of attacks by the “dangerous” dogs. This included an incident involving a father-of-two Ian Price from Staffordshire, who was tragically killed by two XL bullies after they jumped out of a neighbour’s window earlier this month.
Owners of the breed are panicking as a result, with some begging vets to change records to say their pets are a different breed amid fears they will be put down. The majority say their dogs are safe, and that is is only the minority that are dangerous.
It is unclear as of yet what will happen to XL bully dogs when they are banned, with a Number 10 spokesperson saying “the details still need to be worked out.”
The UK’s chief veterinary officer has said there will would not be a cull of the XL bullies, but Lord Baker, the former home secretary who brought in the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991, argued that the breed should be “neutered or destroyed” as he claimed they are “bred in order to fight and to be aggressive”.
Those who attended the protest brought banners and placards as they marched on Parliament, one of which read ‘don’t bully our bullies’. Others said ‘stop bullying our best friends’, while many featured the slogan ‘bad owners not bad dogs’.
One provocative t-shirt featured a photoshopped picture of the Prime Minister in a dog muzzle, accompanied by the sentence: ‘Muzzle Rishi, don’t bully our breed.’
Initially, owners were planning to bring their XL bullies along to the march but they were later advised against it. A message said: “Please do not take your dogs to protest. The police will antagonise and seize your dog.”
On the same day as the protest, reports emerged of a man in his 40s being taken to hospital after being bitten by a dog believed to be an XL bully. Sky News reported that a man in his 40s was attacked on Friday (22 September) in southeast London, and had sustained injuries to his arm.
The owner of the dog is said to have left the scene before officers arrived, but an investigation is ongoing.
Sunak announced the proposed ban earlier this month via a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. He said: “The American XL bully dog is a danger to our communities, particularly our children.
“I share the nation’s horror at the recent videos we’ve all seen. Yesterday we saw a another suspected XL bully dog attack, which has tragically led to a fatality. It is clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs, it’s a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on.
“Today I have tasked ministers to bring together police and experts, to firstly define the breed of dog behind these attacks, with the view to then outlawing it. It is not currently a breed defined in law, so this vital first step must happen fast.
“We will then ban the breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act and new laws will be in place by the end of the year. These dogs are dangerous. I want to reassure the public that we will take all necessary steps to keep people safe.”
According to Bullywatch - a UK group that tracks dog attacks by breed - large bully-type dogs have been involved in 351 attacks in 2023, making up 43% of this year’s total dog attacks. They have also been responsible for 11 confirmed human deaths since 2021.
However, animal charities such as the RSPCA have warned that banning the breed will not solve the issue, as they argued that “unscrupulous breeders” and “irresponsible owners” are the problem - not the dogs.
A spokesperson 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.”