UK Prime Minister Announces Ban on American XL Bullies
The move is the latest round of discrimination against Pit Bull-type dogs based on widespread misinformation and harmful stereotypes.
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Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak announced on Friday that Britain plans to outright ban American XL Bullies by the end of 2023.
“The American XL Bully dog is a danger to our communities, particularly our children,” Prime Minister Sunak said in a statement on Friday announcing the action. He claims the ban is in response to a series of recent dog attacks, including one which led to the death of a man in the village of Stonnall, Staffordshire on Thursday. While it has yet to be confirmed, the two dogs involved were believed to be American XL Bullies who have since been euthanized.
The history of bully breed discrimination
Unfortunately, discrimination against Pit Bulls and other bully breeds is nothing new. Despite an ever-growing army of advocates and counsel by veterinary professionals, misinformation and blatant prejudice continue to ravage animals that fall under these categories in countries across the globe. What makes matters worse is that this widespread ignorance often influences legislation.
The American XL Bully is not a breed recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), though it is by the United Kennel Club (UKC). However, it does present several physical features to place the pups under the Pit Bull umbrella such as a square head and stocky build. As a quick refresher, Pit Bull is also not a breed and is often used as an identification weapon mostly aimed at discriminating against a slew of animals. Thanks to preexisting stereotypes and a loose definition, officials will regularly classify dogs involved in violent attacks and incidents as Pit Bulls despite no clear existing definition of the breed type nor a genuine understanding of what influences their behavior.
The same appears to be happening in Britain with the American XL Bully; even Prime Minister Sunak admits the dog lacks a definitive classification. “Today, I have tasked ministers to bring together police and experts to firstly define the breed of the dog behind these attacks with a view to then outlawing it,” he said. Prime Minister Sunak plans to utilize the country’s Dangerous Dogs Act, enacted in 1991, to execute the American XL Bully’s prohibition.
To be clear, declaring any dog breed inherently aggressive is nonsense. Experts and research have continually confirmed that breed in no way determines behavior absolutely. According to the ASPCA’s statement on Pit Bull-type dogs, “While a dog’s genetics may predispose it to behave in certain ways, genetics do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, behavior develops through a complex interaction between environment and genetics.”
What people are doing to fight this
Experts and advocates have now begun speaking out against the proposed legislation. Adam Spivey, founder of Southend Dog Training in the U.K., pointed to the backyard breeding culture commonly associated with bully breeds and poor pet parenting overall as the true culprits behind these animal attacks. “For every person that had one of these dogs that was out of control and was [letting] it off the lead and not working with a trainer, not muzzling this dog, well done. You guys are the reason that this breed is banned and none of you should ever be allowed anywhere near a dog ever again,” he said in a video on Instagram.
Spivey warns that given the government’s elusive classification of American XL Bullies, essentially every bully breed dog will now be at risk of displacement from their homes or euthanasia. “Banning a breed isn’t going to change anything. We’ve already got four banned breeds in the U.K. All it’s going to do is make this breed either more desirable or they’ll find a new breed to exploit… Until you clamp down on the handlers that have out-of-control dogs, until you clamp down on these backyard breeders, nothing will ever change,” he added before confirming that XL Bullies and bully breeds, in general, are naturally gentle and docile family dogs. Spivey also notes that despite the four previously banned breeds, dog attacks in the U.K. are higher than ever.
Why this legislation is so harmful
Rachel Forday, a force-free trainer specializing in reactive dogs, further dismissed the logic behind a potential XL Bully ban. They explained that any dog, regardless of breed, has the ability to be reactive but that the determining factors are in the context of their unique situation. “When a bite incident happens, an entire breed gets blamed because of these myths/labels and without understanding what happened in the environment or the individual dog’s learning history that may have led to this,” Forday wrote in an Instagram post.
Additionally, a petition has been created pleading with parliament to reconsider its stance on XL Bullies and to place legislative blame on breeders and unfit pet parents rather than helpless animals. “It is also a well-known fact that how a dog acts is a reflection of the owner’s actions. Bad owners should be punished, not the breed of dog — hold bad owners accountable,” the petition reads.
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Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.