British pet owners could face a tough road ahead if they own a certain breed of dog, thanks to a new ban proposed by government officials.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans on Friday to ban what he calls the “American XL Bully” dog from entering the United Kingdom, following a series of attacks blamed on the breed. This law would not only make it a crime to own, breed, give away or sell an XL bully, but could also allow authorities to confiscate animals, even if they have no history of aggression .
Although owners would have the option to seek a court-ordered exemption, they could also be subject to hefty fines and possible jail time.
Sunak called dogs “a danger to our communities” during the announcement, where he also shared that the rule would come into force by the end of the year.
The law would add the American XL Bully breed to an existing list under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which currently bans the Pitbull terrier, Japanese tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.
However, “American XL Bully” is not a breed recognized by the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom and has not been otherwise defined, meaning that authorities must first determine in certain terms which dogs are considered part of the breed.
According to a press release issued by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, the government plans to “bring together experts to define the “American XL bully” breed type. This group will include police, canine and veterinary experts, and animal welfare stakeholders.”
In another statement, she discussed a series of recent attacks, including a deadly attack on Thursday and another earlier this month involving an 11-year-old girl. “Dog attacks are devastating for victims and their families and it is clear that more must now be done to stop them and protect the public,” the statement said. “That’s why we’re taking decisive action to ban the American XL Bully.”
Dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, told the BBC this weekend that an “amnesty” plan would be put in place which would force owners who already own the dogs to follow strict guidelines . Keeping your pet will involve registering it with the government, muzzled and leashed outside at all times, and purchasing insurance.
“But if you comply with these actions, and that means we will know where these dogs are, which will be a huge benefit, then yes, you will absolutely be able to keep your dog,” she told the outlet.
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Experts and citizens react to the proposed ban
While several groups have argued in favor of putting the ban in place, particularly following the series of alleged attacks, experts including veterinary groups and international animal welfare organizations have spoken out against . A petition titled “Bad owners are not to blame for the breed – don’t ban the XL bully” also garnered widespread support, receiving more than half a million signatures in just a few days.
A spokesperson for the Dog Control Coalition, made up of the RSPCA, Blue Cross, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Hope Rescue, Scottish SPCA, Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association, said in a Emailed statement: “The recent incidents are deeply distressing and our hearts go out to everyone involved and affected. The highest priority for everyone involved is to protect the public – but banning the breed will unfortunately not prevent these types of incidents from happening again. »
The organization criticized the bill for what it calls a lack of data and evidence. Since the Dangerous Dogs Act came into force more than 30 years ago, dog bites and attacks have only increased, according to the organization. Indeed, banning certain breeds does not solve the fundamental problems, which they say are caused by unscrupulous breeders and irresponsible owners.
“The coalition urges the Prime Minister to work with them to fully understand the far-reaching consequences of his decision to ban American Tyrants XL, which will have significant impacts on owners, the animal welfare sector, veterinarians, law enforcement and the public.”
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Could a similar ban on bully breeds happen in the United States?
Breed restrictions are not uncommon in the United States and are sometimes written into housing contracts, insurance plans, and municipal ordinances. Sometimes restrictions reach the state level, something organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) are actively fighting against.
According to ALDF Strategic Legislative Affairs Manager Alicia Prygoski, the reason experts fight these blanket bans is because they are ineffective and ignore other, more effective techniques.
“Restricting dogs based on their appearance or perceived breed is a drastic reactionary policy measure that is not effective and has the potential to tear families apart and put countless responsible dogs and guardians at risk,” she said. she told USA TODAY. “There are safe alternatives, there are alternatives that will help make communities safer and protect both dogs and humans.”
Prygosk shared that instead of restrictive breed policy, lawmakers should focus on education, guardian accountability and breed-neutral dangerous dog laws. This would involve things like enforcing leash laws, targeting unwary dog owners and breeders, protecting animals from abuse and fighting, and strengthening education and community sources around ownership. appropriate and responsible for dogs.
“Studies have shown that when these alternatives are favored over implementing an instinctive breed-based restriction, incidences of aggression and biting decrease,” Prygosk explained.
While calling the news out of the United Kingdom disappointing, she said trends here in the United States were more encouraging. In recent years, governments at all levels across the country have moved to repeal what Prygosk called “outdated” orders restricting or outright banning races.
Several states such as Florida, Illinois, and Colorado have also implemented laws prohibiting local governments from adopting racially restrictive policies and prohibiting the same restrictions on insurance coverage and public housing.
At the federal level, the Pet Belonging to Families Act was reintroduced in Congress in June, which would prohibit restrictions on pets in public housing based on their breed.
“It is very clear that there is momentum for removing these outdated race-based restrictions and there is clear recognition that alternatives to these policies are more effective in keeping communities safe,” Prygosk said. “It’s a really encouraging trend that we’re seeing across the country and we’re going to continue to fight to ensure that continues.”
Although some municipalities in the United States still have these restrictions, Prygosk said the general trend is in the opposite direction. A ban similar to the one proposed in the UK is very unlikely to come into effect here, she explained, as more and more of our existing laws targeting dog breeds are being overwritten.
“Our hope is that as we try to end these unjust policies at all levels of government, these municipalities will understand that by shifting the focus from dog breed to responsible guardianship of dogs and breed of common sense, neutral laws are actually going to keep communities safe,” Prygosk said.