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XL bully dogs to be banned in Scotland after owners cross border to beat new rules

XL bully dogs will be banned in Scotland after owners in England took their pets there to dump them to get round new licensing controls south of the border.

Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf confirmed that the Scottish government would “in essence replicate” UK legislation banning XL bully dogs without a licence.

Legislation banning owning the American breed was introduced last year after a spate of attacks in which the dogs killed or injured people.

The XL, the largest of four types of American bully, was cross-bred for fighting, with a muscular body and powerful bite. It can weigh up to 9 stone.

Lawrence Newport, a legal academic who campaigned for a ban, said the breed was the most dangerous in British history – 270 times more deadly than the rest of the dog population.

Emma Whitfield, pictured with her son Jack who was killed by an XL bully, lobbied for a change in the law (Emma Whitfield)
Emma Whitfield, pictured with her son Jack who was killed by an XL bully, lobbied for a change in the law (Emma Whitfield)

On 31 December, it became compulsory for all XL bullies to be kept on a lead and muzzled in public. It is also illegal to breed, sell, advertise, give, exchange or abandon the dogs or let them stray.

Next month, it will be criminal offence to own an XL bully dog in England and Wales without a certificate.

Thousands of XL bully owners have already received exemption certificates, while others will need to apply for a certificate of exemption before 31 January.

But animal-welfare charities and dog lovers warned of a rise in XL bullies being abandoned.

The ban prompted protests among dog lovers (PA)
The ban prompted protests among dog lovers (PA)

Hundreds of the animals were advertised for sale online after the ban was proposed, and within hours of its confirmation, a fresh surge of them appeared on selling sites.

Mr Yousaf said the decision to replicate the Dangerous Dogs Act would be taken pending a parliamentary statement next week after an influx of dogs being abandoned north of the border.

He said at First Minister’s Questions: “What has become clear, I’m afraid in the last few weeks, is we have seen a flow of XL bully dogs coming to Scotland, a number of people coming to Scotland to bring XL bully dogs here to the country.

“As such, we will give further details to members of the Scottish parliament through a parliamentary statement if the Parliamentary Bureau agrees next week.”

Lawrence Newport, a legal academic who campaigned for a ban says XL bullies are 270 times more deadly than the rest of the dog population (Getty)
Lawrence Newport, a legal academic who campaigned for a ban says XL bullies are 270 times more deadly than the rest of the dog population (Getty)

Owners in England who did not want to apply for exemption certificates tried to get round the ban by using the lack of legislation in Scotland.

Former lorry driver Daniel Ward moved to Scotland from London, saying his rescue dog could not be muzzled and he could not afford a licence.

“His favourite thing is to play on the beach. He couldn’t do that with the ban and I can’t take him to the beach with a muzzle on. That’s not fair, it’s why we’re moving,” Mr Ward told the Daily Record.

“It costs £93 to register – that’s almost a month of food for me. I’m living on sandwiches, beans and eggs as every penny has been spent on the journey up here.”

Last month, an XL-bully lover from England repeatedly drove more than 200 miles to rehome dozens of dogs in Scotland.

Sammy Wilkinson took at least 35 there before the new law came into force, racking up an estimated 6,000 miles with journeys from his West Midlands home.

Sammy Wilkinson took at least 35 dogs north of the border to escape the ban (Facebook/Sammy Wilkinson)
Sammy Wilkinson took at least 35 dogs north of the border to escape the ban (Facebook/Sammy Wilkinson)

He said irresponsible owners had been ditching their pets, after discovering three abandoned near his home, and helping rescue another found emaciated in a cage.

Another XL bully was found tied up and set on fire in Carshalton, south London.

Mr Yousaf added: “We will, in essence, replicate the legislation that is in England and Wales here in Scotland, because ultimately, although we do have a very good system of dog-control notice schemes, and we do take the approach indeed not to breed, we have to respond to the situation as it currently stands and therefore we will do what we need to do to ensure public safety.”

The Scottish SPCA said it was disappointed by the Holyrood decision, adding that this was not the most effective way to protect the public.

“Instead, we believe any breed of dog can be potentially out of control and dangerous in the wrong hands. We believe that anyone found guilty of owning a dangerous dog involved in an attack should be automatically banned for life from owning another dog.”

The charity said it had not experienced an increase in numbers of XL Bully dogs at its rescue centres since the change in law in England and Wales.

Rescue centres said that even before the XL bully ban, they were already overflowing with unwanted pets because of the cost of living crisis, and that the ban would add to their loads.