(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – There will not be a cull of American bully XLs, the UK’s chief veterinary officer has said, after Rishi Sunak announced the dogs will be banned.
Christine Middlemiss said, instead there will be an “amnesty”, where owners will have to register their dogs and take actions including a muzzle in public.
The UK prime minister announced the ban on Friday after the death of a man following a suspected attack.
Many have welcomed the move but others say a breed-specific ban will not work.
A 52-year-old man, named as Ian Price, died after suffering multiple injuries in an attack by two suspected American bully XLs near Walsall on Thursday.
A 30-year-old man arrested in connection with his death has been released on conditional bail, police said.
Prof Middlemiss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There will be an amnesty. So people that already have these dogs – and some of them will be well socialised, well managed, well trained – you will need to register and take certain actions.
“Your dog will need to be neutered. It will need to be muzzled when out in public and on a lead and insured.
“But if you comply with these actions, and that means we’ll know where these dogs are, which will be a massive benefit, then yes, absolutely you will be able to keep your dog.”
Mr Sunak said on Friday that the dogs were “a danger to our communities” and would be banned by the end of the year.
But environment minister Mark Spencer, whose department has responsibility for adding dogs to the banned list, said it will “take a while” to ban the dogs.
“We’re going to have to go through the process of identifying the characteristics of that dog, of that type of dog, and make sure that we don’t encapsulate the wrong sort of dog in that process,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions?.
“So it’s going to take a while, but we are, you know, we’re committed to doing it.
“And we’ll try and get that that balance right between getting rid of those nasty dogs with the horrible characteristics, but protecting people’s pets.”
Mr Sunak said he was ordering work from police and experts to legally define the breed so it can then be banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “There has been a clear case for banning them for a long time. What I say to the government is good, get on with it, and the sooner we can do this the better.”
The XL is the largest type of the American bully dog and can weigh more than nine stone (60kg). However, it is not recognised by the main British dog associations, such as the Royal Kennel Club.
The type has been involved in several high-profile attacks.
A 60-year-old man was arrested earlier this week after an 11-year-old Ana Paun was attacked by an American XL bully and Staffordshire bullterrier cross in Birmingham on Saturday.
Two men who went to her aid were also injured and needed hospital treatment.
That attack sparked a debate on whether the type of dog should be prohibited, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman saying she was taking urgent advice on the matter.
Four-year-old Luna-Ann, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, needed 40 stitches and plastic surgery after she was bitten in the face by what her mother believes was American bulldog crossed with an bully XL at a neighbour’s house in April.
Her mother Amy, 32, said told BBC Breakfast that she wanted the ban, but if that did not happen then at the very least “they should all be muzzled and a licence put in place”.
However, some owners and animal groups argued a breed-specific ban was not the solution.
Sophie Coulthard, owner of bully XL dog “Billy”, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was wrong to put any blame towards the dog instead of the circumstances, saying more responsibility should be on the owner.
“There are many people just like me who have a bully breed and their dog is exactly what the dog should be. A family pet – a well-trained, well-socialised, well-behaved animal that fits into their family life, and people are devastated,” she said.
The Dog Control Coalition – a group which includes the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs Home and the Royal Kennel Club – said: “The biggest priority for everyone involved is to protect the public – but banning the breed will sadly not stop these types of incidents recurring.”
The group’s statement said the Dangerous Dogs Act had in fact coincided with an increase in dog bites and “the recent deaths show that this approach isn’t working”.
The government must tackle “unscrupulous breeders, who are putting profit before welfare, and the irresponsible owners whose dogs are dangerously out of control”, a spokeswoman said, adding the coalition was “deeply concerned about the lack of data behind this decision”.
Police are recording more offences in which an out-of-control dog causes injury, with a BBC investigation in March finding that almost 22,000 such offences were recorded in 2022. A 34% increase from 16,000 in 2018.
Any ban would have to come via the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. A government source told the BBC the department had already been working on plans to outlaw the type of dog.