XL bullies : Gentle Giants or Dangerous Dogs?

By Shanay Nijjar 

Discussion over the dangers that the American XL bully dogs pose to society is a topic that has received an increased amount of attention in the past year. Not only is this a topic amongst dog owners and charity organisations, but a serious concern regarding both the police and the government.  

XL bullies, originally a breed common in America, are large, loyal dogs that can grow to 19-20 inches in height. According to an article from the BB published earlier this month, the dogs have “a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for [their] size”.  

The most important factor of this topic is the preventions being put into place. What is the government doing to keep people safe and are they acting fast enough? 

In 2023, the Welsh and English government added the American XL bully dog to the Dangerous Dog Act. Under the law, it is now illegal for anyone to own an XL bully dog without possessing a certificate of exemption. According to the BBC, the English government stated, “the breed had been “disproportionately involved” in deaths recorded since 2021,” and the ban was therefore put in place in an attempt to prevent further deaths at the hands of these dogs.  

The certificate of exemption allows for owners to continue to live with their dog legally, but the exemption is now no longer available. Over 4,000 people applied for their dog to be registered with a total completion time of 2 to even 3 weeks. The exemption comes alongside many rules and regulations that must be strictly adhered to. As of the 31st of December, all exempted XL bully dogs must be kept in public whilst on a lead and wearing a muzzle, if they are neutered and microchipped. If the rules are not followed, owners will be punished with a fine or could be sentenced to a few months in jail.  

The exemption system focuses on owners being able to keep their beloved pets whilst balancing the safety of the public.  

However, the new regulations have not been as successful as many had hoped. Following the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, it was found that in 2023, 16 people were killed by a dog, compared to 6 people in 2022. It is important to point out that these statistics are based on dog breeds of all kinds as information on specific breeds of dogs has not been made official. However, after the ban on XL bullies came into place in December 2023, a report by the BBC from March of this year stated that the police have recorded a “21% rise in dog attacks in England and Wales.” 

This shows that, despite the bans being put in place, we still have a long way to go, with stories of dog attacks appearing more frequently in mainstream media.  

For example, on the 20th of May 2024, another report of an XL bully attack was reported on the news. A woman in her fifties passed away after being fatally attacked by two of her own XL bully dogs at her home in Hornchurch. The dogs had been legally exempted and the woman had been following the law. This case proves that the exemption is not doing enough to help dissipate the battle against dog attacks.  

But what about those who disagree with the banning? A variety of animal charities across the country, including the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs and Cats home believe that bans on individual breeds of dogs are not fair for responsible owners and that the bans simply are not helping enough. 

Whether the ban is useful is a question that remains at large. Many believe the ban can have a significant impact, some believe we are not doing enough but others believe that the ban is wrong and unfair. What do you think? Are XL bullies gentle giants or dangerous dogs? 

Posted in Featured, News.