New UK Legislation Targets American XL Bullies

First, they'll need to define the dog breed

Dog on doghouse
The U.K. faces a canine conundrum.
Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

If you’re a dog owner with a penchant for one large breed of canine living in the U.K., your life and that of your pet are set to get a lot more challenging in the near future. As The Guardian‘s Jessica Murray reports, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a plan to ban the American XL bully breed throughout the country by the end of 2003.

Making things somewhat challenging for the British government is that there currently isn’t an official definition of just what makes a dog an American XL bully. That, according to Sunak, is the first step in taking action. “It is not currently a breed defined in law, so this vital first step must happen fast,” the Prime Minster said, as per The Guardian. “It is clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs, it’s a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on.”

As Murray’s reporting on the issue points out, American XL bullies are believed to have been involved in several attacks on humans — including one in which a 52-year-old man died. The lack of an official definition makes it more difficult to determine what breed of dog was involved in the attacks.

Under the law, American XL bully owners who registered and microchipped their dogs — and who kept them leashed and muzzled when in public — would not encounter issues with law enforcement after the ban went into effect.

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An explainer at the site Love Your Dog has some details on what constitutes an American bully, and how they differ from a more traditional pitbull. American bullies tend to be wider and more muscular than pitbulls — though the article states that pitbulls along with multiple breeds of bulldogs were involved in creating the breed. The United Kennel Club does have a set of standards for the American bully writ large, but doesn’t have anything explaining what defines a dog as an XL bully.

The Prime Minister’s announcement also raises the long-standing question of whether canine aggression is something inherent to certain breeds or if it’s simply a result of how a specific dog is raised. Sunak’s comments make it clear where he stands — but this decree is unlikely to end the larger debate.

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