XL Bully Owners Bite Back

XL Bully owners bite back All is not lost,  it seems, in the effort to prevent the XL Bully from being added to the proscribed dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

The Licenceme Group (sic) has raised £150,000 and has already instigated a process which may end in judicial review and could, if successful, perhaps overturn breed-specific legislation altogether.

Licensing probably isn’t the answer to the problem that BSL is trying to address though. It will simply become a tax on dog ownership and irresponsible and criminal elements will evade it. Forgery of paperwork is comparatively easy and there will still be nowhere near enough resources to police the licensing.

We have a model of the problem already with the Pet Passport Scheme which is being roundly abused to allowed the illegal importation of thousands of street dogs as well as puppy farmed dogs, some under the legal age for leaving their mother. None of the national parliaments have done anything about this, so how would a dog licence be any different?

Whilst an overturn of this ineffective legislation would be welcome, a licensing scheme is not a solution to poor breeding and purchasing practices and until we address this, the next “XL Bully” type problem is just aorta d the corner.

XL Error


XL Error
It is sadly no surprise that the government has indeed jerked the knee and brought in a ban on the XL Bully.

There was a lot of wasted breath, words and time spent by those who know considerably more about the problem than the government – indeed who have to deal with the consequences – in trying to explain why this is a colossal error.

Presumably the government thinks that it can get some easy Brownie points and gain popularity with the red tops by doing this. It surely couldn’t have been because it has learned the lessons from banning the so-called pit bull.

Just as with many kennel club breed standards, it is impossible to work out what dog is being described, the DEFRA “definition” of an XL Bully is so wide as to encompass pretty much every large bull breed. Most police officers don’t know one end of a dog from another so it’s likely that a lot of heartache will ensue and a lot of dogs will be condemned to restricted lives without cause or good reason.

Unlike the previous bans, the government are proposing to offer compensation of £200 (£100 for a “rescue” dog) if owners wish healthy dogs to be euthanised. Currently, the British Veterinary Association policy on euthanasia supports fully vet’s right to refuse to euthanise a healthy animal. Quite what the position will be with a proscribed dog remains to be seen.

It is likely that some owners, perhaps many owners, will not be able or willing to pay the £92.40 required to register a dog deemed to be an XL Bully in addition to the cost of neutering and obligatory insurance. Vets are already under pressure, and the prospect of perhaps many hundreds of owners requesting neutering or euthanasia is unlikely to be able to be accommodated within the timeframe allowed by the law. It will be illegal to re-home, sell, buy or transfer ownership of an XL Bully dog to another person, including rescues, from December 31st, 2023.

The prospect of maybe hundreds of dogs simply being abandoned doesn’t bear thinking about, but it is a very real possibility.

I just hope that I am proved wrong.

Wales Takes The Lead


Wales Takes the lead
Although the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is national legislation and is not devolved, Wales and Scotland are able to consider implementing measures to promote responsible dog ownership.

Accordingly, the Welsh Government has a web page with advice on responsible dog ownership and has called a summit comprising representatives from local government, the police, public health, third sector organisations and canine welfare and public safety campaigns.

This is so much better than the knee-jerk response implementing a ban on XL Bullies from the UK government. Such a response makes it easy to rabble rouse (surely with an eye to forthcoming elections) but does nothing to resolve a grave issue from recurring time and time again. BSL is also expensive and has resulted in the compulsory euthanasia of thousands of dogs that have never been a problem and were never going to be, not least those condemned under the vague designation of being a “pitbull”.

EFRA has released a report on Breed Specific Legislation recommending a focus on prevention through education and early intervention including training courses for dog owners who commit low to mid-level offences similar to the speed awareness courses for drivers.

As with the broken window theory, dealing with this at the lower levels of offences tackles the roots of the problem. It won’t prevent every incident but it may save a lot of dogs and owners from heartbreak.

Where Wales has taken a lead, we should follow.

Another Knee-jerk Reaction

Anther knee-jerk reaction The stupidity of the decision to ban the XL Bully knows no bounds. Yet again, the government ignore the weight of peer-reviewed science just as they did with Covid-19, and prioritise a populist response. Nothing to do with pending by-elections and a general election of course.

Once German Shepherds were demonised and the Staffie was the Nanny Dog and then they were demonised and became the media’s”devil dogs”. Now it is another bull breed derivative.

It seems the government is not prepared to learn the lessons from listing the so-called pit bull and we will have yet more perfectly fine dogs confined to leads and muzzles for no good reason and worse – owners will be obliged to neuter so that we will effectively be reducing the pool of dogs with good temperaments. More so-called expert witnesses will be polishing their callipers ready to measure those massive heads – how many millimetres over their limit does a bully have to be to be condemned even if it has done nothing?

There is a serious problem and that has led to so many injuries and fatalities this year but it is far more complex than sticking a type of dog on a list. Whether it’s a large dog confined to a council flat or a dog walker unable to cope with too many dogs, the problem lies with breeding, purchase and ownership.

This was a missed opportunity to improve the legislation regarding breeding and responsible ownership, a missed opportunity to support behaviourists and trainers who are trying to deal with the consequences and a missed opportunity to save lives.

XL bullies are already being dumped and now will probably be culled as, once the legislation is enacted, it will be illegal to exchange or sell them. Responsible owners will be demonised and, right now, I am thinking of the delightful XL Bully bitch that my puppy was romping with last week. She was well-trained and well cared for and, despite being three times the size and weight of my puppy had perfect play manners.

Rishi Sunak might like to consider that his own chosen breed, the Labrador is a restricted breed in Ukraine and they feature high on the list of dogs causing injury in the UK. Of course, the Labrador has excellent PR – puppies rolling around with lavatory paper, Guide Dogs; but anyone that has been on the receiving end of an aroused Labrador may have a different view, as might the person who like me, had a whale of a time playing with an XL Bully.

Bully Off

Bully Off It has been an appalling year already for serious injuries and fatalities involving dogs.

The Met alone seized 479 out-of-control dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act in 2022 146 more than in 2021. 154 dogs had already been seized by May this year.

44 of the seizures were XL bullies, compared to 16 Staffie crosses. No American bulldogs were seized in 2018 or 2019 by the force. In the UK overall in 2022, there were nearly 22,000 cases of out-of-control dogs causing injury. In 2018, there were just over 16,000, the UK’s dog population having been estimated to have risen by only 15% in the same period of time.

The reasons for the rise in incidents are complex, but include poor breeding and rearing, poor handling and ignorance of owners plus the minority who deliberately want their dogs to be perceived as intimidating.

There is a push for XL bullies to be added to the list of banned breeds but this would not solve the problem. In fact, yet more legislation will do little but to enable the police and other agencies to deal with the “low hanging fruit” unless considerable resources are committed to back up the legislation that we already have and which is rarely enforced. This would go a long way to preventing back street breeding, illegal boarding and out of control dogs.

Dogs have always been used to exemplify the perceived status of their owners – and that applies as much to the Labrador and spaniel (“my other house is an estate”) as to the XL Bully (be scared of my dog, be scared of me). Demonising whatever the latest fad is in dog breeding ignores the elephant in the room that all dogs have the potential to be dangerous in the wrong hands and under the wrong circumstances.

Research proves that BSL has failed everywhere it has been tried: research and statistics prove that the Dangerous Dogs Act has been an abject failure. Let’s not allow MPs to tick a box, add a breed and then think that their job is done. It won’t save lives.

(Not) Licensed To Kill

Dog boarding agency Every owner needs help with looking after their dog sometimes but how many bother to check the credentials of their sitter?

It is a legal requirement for anyone boarding a dog in England and Wales to have been inspected and licensed by their local authority.

Many people use pet sitting agencies in the mistaken assumption that they will get a competent, trustworthy and accredited service.

Such a false belief within a largely unregulated industry led to the death of a puppy  when a sitter ignored the instructions of the owners and walked the dog in her garden and then left him in a conservatory in some of the hottest temperatures that the UK has experienced. The dog had been left briefly on a trial basis before the owners went on holiday abroad.

The agency, Rover.com, is an international brand with a background check on employees that doesn’t even mention competencies for working with animals. Do you want to know that your dog sitter is not on the sex offender register or would you rather know that they have at least enough ability to understand that a young, brachycephalic dog is especially prone to heat stress during an unprecedented heatwave? The background check is no more than anyone can do themselves for a small fee but does not include checking whether the sitter is boarding legally within their jurisdiction.

The case is currently under investigation by the police but Rover.com just promised to “remove the sitter” from their platform and not allow them to take any more bookings.

It can seem too much hassle to run a check via your local authority for boarders but it could result in your dog dying. The legislation is there for a reason but it is obvious that these get-rich-quick companies make empty promises about checks and you cannot assume that your dog will be safe.

The happy smiling images of the staff on Rover.com’s website say nothing about their competencies. If you look at the careers that they offer, it is clear that they are basically a software platform taking advantage of the fact that too many people think that dog sitting is a sinecure that simply requires them to like dogs – and maybe not even that.

Surely no holiday is worth your dog’s life?

The final bitter irony – if you look closely at the screenshot of Rover.com’s homepage, you will see that they donate £1 to the RSPCA for every new customer.

 

Hitting Them In The Pocket

Appeals to the public not to buy puppies from puppy farmers and back street breeders are useless. The “click and collect” mentality has permitted the canine supply chain as attested by the increase in dog ownership over lockdown .

There is a genuine problem in the dog breeding world as many legitimate breeders are ageing or cannot afford to just break even by selling surplus dogs at little ore than cost. This can only get worse as the cost of feed, utilities and transport rockets.

However, something needs to be done as poorly bred and ill-socialised dogs become a social problem as well as a welfare one.

It seems that the HMRC may provide the solution (in addition perhaps to Brexit making the illegal import of dogs harder).

HMRC have launched a hotline for anonymous reporting of illegal breeding and other canine and feline-related activities.

It may well prove that being hit in the pocket is the ultimate solution.

Bully For Them

An Oslo court has ruled that breeding English bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels contravenes their animal welfare legislation and is thus now illegal.

On the surface, this might seem like a good move but why stop there? The list of dogs that have poor genetic diversity never mind those that are severely compromised by their distorted phenotypes goes far beyond those two breeds. Should we ban breeding of all such dogs? What about out crossing such as that which eliminated kidney problems in Dalmatians? It is possibly too late for the bulldog but are we willing to make the breed extinct deliberately? Is the bull dog the canary in the coal mine? If so, that bird has been singing in the void for many other breeds for some time now.

We also need to look at where the Oslo legislation is coming from – an “animal rights” organisation. At their extreme, such movements argue that companion animals are “prisoners” and that farmed animals should become extinct in the drive to turn omnivorous humans into herbivores. Indeed, some even try to force dogs and cats to eat meat-free diets. There is also a push to recognise animal sentience in law, again on the surface, a reasonable demand until one looks into it a little more deeply. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill currently progressing through the English parliament, much heralded by self-appointed groups such as the continually unsuccessful litigants Wild Justice is a thinly veiled attack on field sports and farming that will not only do nothing to protect animals but will, like the politically-motivated Hunting Act 2004 is likely to lead to much suffering and imbalance of wildlife in the town and countryside as well as prohibiting essential countryside stewardship such as controlled burning.

It is already illegal to breed dogs with a compromised phenotype under the AWA 2006, 6(5). It is already illegal to breed and sell dogs for profit without being licensed. There is a complete lack of resources provided to police this legislation and the public remain largely ignorant of the law.

It remains to be seen what the effect of this legislation will be in pratice in Norway but it may be a case of “be careful what you wish for”.

Tip Of The Iceberg

Tip of the iceberg Would you pay £20,000 for a dog that could barely walk, couldn’t breathe properly, could never give birth naturally and was high likely to suffer from a variety of diseases including severe skin problems?

Plenty did. Enough to net Karl and Victoria Shellard £372,531 and provide them with assets of more than £1m.

The Shellards bred 67 litters over six years, with bitched being inseminated at every season and one bitch being forced to produce 6 litters in just 4 years.

They were fined £19,000 and ordered to pay back illegal earnings of £372,531 and costs of £43,775. That will still leave them pretty well off – and their main crime being considered to be not having a breeding licence.

Judge David Wynn Morgan assuredly missed the point when he told them “You could have run an extremely profitable business if you were properly registered…”

Just look at their dogs in the image here: animals so severely contorted that their shortened lives will be misery even without being forced to breed. Under The Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014 , Condition 3: Health, “The licence holder must take all reasonable steps to protect dogs from pain, suffering, injury and disease.” Well that would rule out the dogs that the Shellards were producing for a start.

Tragically for dogs, the Shellards are the tip of the iceberg and until people stop paying obscene amounts for distorted travesties of dogs, the majority will go unpunished and dogs will yet again suffer.

Need It Like A Hole In The Head

The UKKC lists the following defects as being a problem in the Chihuahua:

  • Incorrect dentition
  • Wry jaw
  • Retained puppy teeth
  • Misplaced teeth
  • Protruding tongue as a result of incorrect teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Incorrect bites
  • Excessively short muzzles.

You could select any one of those and feel that the poor dog would need it like a hole in the head, but that is exactly what has been added to the litany of defects for the poor Chihuahuas: holes in the head.

Our colleagues at Pedigree Dogs Exposed have alerted us to a new paper which highlights the prevalence of persistent fontanelles – holes along the suture lines of the skull that expose the encased brain. Fontanelles are normal soft spots that enable growth and birth, but that should close between 9 and 12 weeks of age.

The failure of this process is common in small dogs, especially where breeders have deliberately created domed heads and smaller and smaller dogs. Some breeders have even made a fetish of an open fontanelle in the middle of the head (designated as a molera) and supposedly designating the “purity” of the breed.

This latest finding and earlier research by the same authors shows that as many as 90% of Chihuahuas suffer from holes in the skull: the smaller the dog, the larger the hole and the larger the amount of brain area exposed. There is also an association with syringomyelia and ventriculomegaly.

The simple solution is to breed bigger dogs without domed heads and short narrow muzzles. The difficulty is in persuading the breeders and show judges – the very people who purport to uphold the best in the breed – to agree and comply.