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The XL Bully: a danger to society or a victim of our lack of understanding? 

In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans in the early weeks of September for the XL Bully breed to be banned following a series of fatal attacks associated with this type of dog. This has raised serious ethical issues surrounding the question as to whether this is an unjust punishment for such a broad breed, or whether this is a rightful way to deal with ‘dangerous’ dogs. 

Anna Webb, a dog behaviouralist, spoke on the Good Morning show about how the XL Bully is still a breed that must be defined. Furthermore, the Environment Secretary has also commented on the possible notion to research this type of dog further as it is not a formally recognised breed within the UK. This suggests the argument that perhaps an outright ban on the XL Bully is far too harsh, and until we have the knowledge of what exactly the genetics of this breed of dog entails, we should not make mass assumptions that all of this breed act in this perceived ‘dangerous’ and violent way. Is it fair for the government to consider a dog’s life and its freedoms invalid because of the perceived danger of their breed, to which we are still ill-informed about? Perhaps, if more knowledge surrounding the breed was available, more responsibility and accountability of the owners rather than the dogs themselves would be an appropriate solution. 

Under the 1998 Dangerous Dogs Act, the XL Bully could be the 5th breed of dog to be banned within the UK by the end of 2023. This legislation, existing for over 20 years, has still failed to control or prevent dog attacks. Between November 2021 and May 2023 there have been 15 fatalities following dog attacks. One only has to look at the data to understand that this poorly thought-out legislation is inadequate, and outright bans of breeds is simply steering attention away from the real issue at heart. Bans have become counter-productive. There must be information and regulations surrounding breeds and the responsibility of owners to train their beloved dogs accordingly to the nature of their breed. 

It may be that the act of banning breeds of dogs is in fact oversimplifying the real issue: the topic of ‘dangerous dogs’ has become a cultural issue, with owners buying dogs without prior knowledge and information of their breeds and this is possibly where the issue stems from. 

During Covid-19 there was a surge in people purchasing dogs as family pets, yet following Covid and the return to relative normality, many of these families were seen to be giving their dogs away as they had not understood the amount of care and effort needed to look after them. This being said, owners perhaps may be naïve to the specifics of dog training and care, thus we then end up with careless owners who simply use their dogs as status symbols, raising the breed incorrectly which may ultimately lead to them becoming violent. 

The XL Bully regulations and possible ban has raised many questions: is it far more to do with the owners than the animals? Is simply banning the breed the right policy?

What is clear is that the Dangerous Dogs Act has not solved the issue, and breeds that have been banned does not mean that dog attacks have stopped. Does this just insinuate that irresponsible owners simply move on to another breed? 

Banning clearly does not educate. 

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