From 1 February 2024, it will become illegal to own an American bully XL in England and Wales if the dog isn’t registered with the UK government. Existing owners will be able to keep their XL bullies so long as they apply for an exemption — at a fee of £92.40 — this comes with conditions: owners must ensure the dogs are microchipped and kept both on a lead and muzzled at all times in public. It’s a serious move, made after a series of attacks that resulted in severe injuries and at least by our counts, at least 14 deaths. Westminster’s approach balances public safety with a humane treatment of the existing XL bully population. So why then has the Scottish government decided that it will not impose the ban?
The decision to outlaw XL bullies ‘will not be brought into force in Scotland on the current timescale,’ said SNP MP Steven Bonnar in parliament on Monday. It’s a stance that the Scottish government insists reflects the ‘deed not breed’ approach to dangerous dogs favoured by animal welfare advocates. But their decision to diverge from a Union-wide approach to banning the XL bully breed raises significant concerns — not least because there are worries that XL bullies will be displaced from England and Wales north of the border next year completely unregulated.
Scotland essentially already operates a ‘deed not breed’ approach through the Control of Dogs Act 2010, but has it been successful? According to the Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, not really. In 2018, he said that the act was ‘not really effective’ since it was highly dependent on local authorities, some of which struggle to recruit and resource dog wardens.