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Flawed Legislation: Will the XL Bully Ban Really Keep Children Safe?

Updated: Jan 19

You may have already got the memo of the recent addition to the list of banned breeds in England and Wales, and that Scotland are set to follow in their footsteps sometime this year.

a staffordshire bull terrier sitting nicely in grass
Will this Staffordshire Bull Terrier be branded an XL Bully type too? A nationwide uncertainty over vague descriptors have many dog carers worried.

But amongst the various media publications surrounding these misunderstood creatures, lies both an element of truth and an element of speculation that ought to be addressed.

Let's first of all remember that any dog has the potential to be a "dangerous" dog regardless of breed, size and general temperament. I always think back to when my late papa used to say,

"dogs, like us, have bad days but they can't tell you when they're having one so it's wise to be respectful of their personal space".

And he was absolutely right!

The reason why XL Bullies have generated as much negative attention comes down to a few things really:

  1. Like Pitbulls and other banned breeds before them, they seem to attract people of society closely linked to crime.

  2. XL Bullies were selectively bred for crime, particularly within the underground dog fighting world therefore, they have gotten the reputation for being fighting dogs as a result.

  3. Due to their size and build, they are naturally a lot more intimidating than perhaps a smaller breed with a similar physical appearance (say a Staffordshire Bull Terrier). What's more, due to their physical strength and strong jaws, the potential to cause serious, if not, fatal harm is much higher than other, more common breeds.

These three factors have no doubt been leading influencers in orchestrating the ban, and understandably so, but does that mean that the ban is fair and/or will work?

I think it's important to know the facts since this is a decision which will ultimately lead to a great deal of tragedy in the coming years ahead.

Are XL Bullies really the most common dog breed to bite? Are your children safe?

There was a statistic published in an article online the other week suggesting that XL Bullies contributed to more than 50% of dog attacks in the U.K - a statistic that, at face value, would inflict a degree of concern even in the biggest fan of the breed, I'm sure.

But here's the thing: statistics are flawed!

Just after the announcement of the ban in England and Wales, a select few pet professionals were invited to a private conference in Dundee, Scotland by the Dog Enforcement Department within the Scottish Government.

The intention was to bring together both pet industry experts and local law enforcement officers, postal workers and council workers to discuss the future of the breed here in Scotland.

During this event, both a representative for Dogs Trust and a Clinical Behaviourist presented two separate talks on dog safety, societal risks and the fate of XL Bullies. They demonstrated very different but informative opinions, both with valid reason.

To summarise, the feedback received through the contribution of the very individuals in charge of enforcing various dog laws in Scotland concluded that dog bites are far more common than statistics suggest.

Dog bites, that for the most part, are not by the jaws of XL Bullies!

What we read and often hear on mainstream news outlets have been carefully scripted to inflict fear in society, and the press surrounding XL Bullies is but one glorious example of this in action.

Headlines such as, "Child, 9, mauled to death by XL Bully" or "Mothers Screams Can Be Heard As Child, 1, Is Bitten By XL Bully" or "Man Dies After XL Bully Attack", and the many more that can be found online, are bound to instil fear towards any dog that resembles an XL Bully.

The reality is though that dog bites are a far more serious issue than even statistics would have you believe but that's not down to a specific breed.

Realistically, we know that there are more dog bites to occur within the family home than there are outdoors with strangers. The culprits of these events are the dogs that we consider "good family pets" - our Labradors, Jack Russells, Cocker Spaniels and Chihuahuas.

It made total sense when hearing one of the law enforcement officers tell the story of a family he was working with whose child was attacked by their geriatric golden retriever. The incident wasn't reported by the family, but the hospital after the parents had visited to have the wound cleaned up.

As part of the Dangerous Dog Act 1991, hospitals are required to report any dog bites as part of their duty to safeguard children and the general public.

When probed by the law enforcement officer, the family tried everything they could to convince the authorities that their dog was no threat and had only bitten due to his medical condition being aggravated by unsafe interaction with the child at that time. They admitted that the dog had snapped prior as a warning, and they failed to remove the child from the proximity prior to the bite.

Needless-to-say there will be countless more unreported near miss bites and bites happening around the world because families want to protect their beloved companions.

Why is it then, that XL Bullies are being accused and prosecuted as the biggest dog bite culprit?

Herein lies the flaw of our dog-related legislations and laws...

The truth is, while these dogs certainly have the potential to cause serious harm to both ourselves and our children, they are not all destined to bite.

Dog safety comes down to education.

Considering that the real dog bite risk is right under our noses, within the family home, our best way at safeguarding ourselves is to implement healthy boundaries, safe dog interaction and an education that caters to the intellectual abilities of the receiver.

Being dog savvy and understanding how to keep both dogs and people safe outdoors is also important. Teaching children to have respect for other animals and putting in place strict rules around approaching unfamiliar dogs irrespective of breed.

Labelling a dog breed dangerous based merely on physical appearance won't change the rise of dog attacks but instead result in unnecessary fear and judgement towards thousands of innocent creatures.

My best advice for parents is to explore the various educational resources available out there for you and your family, and start teaching your children today on the importance of safe dog interaction.

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1 Comment

100% agree with everything you say and only hope more

people read this as it’s totally unfair to blame the XL Bully because of their look and size. People need to be educated more about how to look after their dog as they are to blame in a lot of cases and it’s the poor dog that suffers.

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