From 31 December it has been illegal to breed, sell or rehome a dog fitting the characteristics of an ‘American XL Bully’. The government has released a very general description, one that could encompass many different breeds and crosses, and thousands of families in England and Wales will be impacted. Working-class families will be hit the hardest amidst the immense pressure of the cost-of-living crisis, and will have to make traumatic decisions about the lives of their pets.
Compensation of £200 has been offered to families who opt to euthanise their animals. This puts families in a heartbreaking position. For those who refuse to euthanise their dogs, the process of applying for an exemption certificate is expensive, beginning with a £92.40 application fee.
Private landlords and council housing providers may refuse illegal dog breeds that fall under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act, adding to an existing housing crisis. Underpaid working-class animal rescue staff will receive no support for their mental health from the government as they are forced into the distressing position of putting healthy, friendly and sociable dogs in their care to sleep, just for how they look.
Many people are scared about dog attacks and concerned for the safety of their families and pets. This is being capitalised on by the Tories in an attempt to distract the public from their significant failings in government. The Labour Party again fails to speak out against injustice by supporting the Tories’ decision to ban the dog breed.
As a dog behaviour professional, I am saddened by the decision of both major political parties to ignore the research demonstrating the ineffectiveness of breed specific legislation (BSL), as well as the negligence to consider the devastating emotional impact of this law.
Dog attacks may be rare, but they can be traumatic and devastating for the people and animals that fall victim. However, BSL is not the solution and there is no evidence that it makes a difference to the number of dog attacks. In 2010, Denmark banned 13 breeds of dogs, but a scientific review in 2018 found that this had no effect on the amount of hospitalisations for dog bites.
Many of the UK’s leading animal welfare organisations, including the RSPCA and Dogs Trust, have spoken out against the ban. Campaign groups such as ‘Don’t Ban Me, Licence Me’ propose an alternative based around accountability, education and responsible ownership which does not involve condemning dogs that have done no wrong based on their physical appearance.
I am heartbroken for the families of victims of dog attacks, as well as for the families who will be unfairly impacted as a result of this law, the dogs that have already lost their lives, and all the future dogs that fit this widely defined breed type that will face euthanasia.
Jasper Molloy, Northampton
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