XL bully dog owner slams 'knee-jerk moral panic' – 'I feel targeted'

Sophie Coulthard said 'a moral panic' had arisen following several high-profile attacks on children.

Sophie Coulthard and her XL Bully dog Billy. (SWNS)
Sophie Coulthard and her American bully Xl dog, Billy. (SWNS)

A defiant American bully XL dog owner has said she feels "targeted" over her choice of pet as calls mount for the breed to be banned.

Sophie Coulthard, 39, who has a one-year-old dog called Billy, said "a moral panic" had arisen following several high-profile attacks on children, with experts describing the pets as "devil dogs".

Home secretary Suella Braverman has pushed to outlaw bully XLs after Ana Paun, 11, was mauled on the arm by one in Birmingham on Saturday.

Video showed the moment when the schoolgirl was bitten by a dog before two men tried to restrain it and were also injured.

 Sophie said her XL Bully loves
Sophie Coulthard said her American bully XL loves 'cuddles'. (SWNS)

But Coulthard said her bully XL loves "cuddles", and said those using the dogs for "status" and "protection" would just find another breed if they were banned.

She also warned against "knee-jerk" changes to the law banning the breed, saying irresponsible owners should be at the forefront of new legislation rather than dogs.

"I genuinely believed this is being turned into a moral panic," Coulthard said.

"You are going to have responsible owners like me who are unfairly targeted for the type of dog that I have, while dog attacks across all breeds are up at the moment."

Coulthard said she'd felt "stressed" following calls to outlaw the breed and said it was important that licences be introduced for owners.

Sophie Coulthard thinks irresponsible owners should be target instead of dogs. (SWNS)
Sophie Coulthard thinks irresponsible owners should be targeted instead of dogs. (SWNS)

XL bully debate: Latest News

Coulthard decided to get an American bully XL after searching for a dog that was both capable of going on hikes and could live in her London flat.

She felt the US breed, a mixture of the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Bulldog and English Bulldog, would suit her lifestyle perfectly.

Coulthard, who films videos about her dog on her TikTok profile, "Training Billy the Bully", said he had never growled at anyone after she had worked hard to set boundaries.

She said she didn't recognise the characterisation of bully XLs as naturally violent animals, saying her pet was the ideal "family companion".

Watch: Calls for American bully XL dog breed ban after attack

Who wants bully XL dogs banned?

Home secretary Suella Braverman is pushing for a ban on American bully XL dogs, arguing they are a "clear and lethal danger", particularly to children.

She announced she had commissioned "urgent advice" on outlawing the dogs after highlighting the attack on 11-year-old Ana Paun.

Emma Whitfield, the mother of 10-year-old Jack Lis – who died in November 2021 after being mauled by an American bully in Caerphilly, South Wales – has also been calling for the dogs to be banned.

Sir John Hayes, a close ally of Braverman, has been pushing in the House of Commons for a ban on the dog he has claimed is "bred to kill".

However, animal charities including the RSPCA have been pushing for an end to breed-specific bans, which they say work against dogs perceived to be "dangerous" and lead to thousands of "innocent" animals being put down.

Instead, they want to focus on individual actions and dangerous owners.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 05, 2023: Secretary of State for the Home Department Suella Braverman arrives in Downing Street to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting in London, United Kingdom on September 05, 2023. (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Home secretary Suella Braverman is pushing for a ban on American bully XL dogs. (Getty)

Laws around dangerous dogs and which ones are banned

There are currently four banned breeds of dog in the UK – the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

Adding American bully XL dogs to the banned list is the responsibility of environment secretary Therese Coffey's department.

But it is understood there are concerns over the feasibility of adding the American bully as the dog is not recognised as a specific breed by the Kennel Club.

It could be hard to define and a ban could inadvertently outlaw a range of other dogs.

A Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman said: "We take dog attacks and anti-social behaviour very seriously and are making sure the full force of the law is being applied.

"This can range from lower-level Community Protection Notices – which require dog owners to take appropriate action to address behaviour – to more serious offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act, where people can be put in prison for up to 14 years, be disqualified from ownership or result in dangerous dogs being euthanised."