The desperately sad XL Bully situation

Shout out to the fosterers out there.  You are doing an AMAZINGLY valuable job and I love you all.  Taking on abandoned dogs, or dogs being handed into rescue without kennels space, sometimes at the drop of a hat, foster families give the traumatised dog time and space to start to become themselves again before they can be then skilfully matched with a new family.  However, we need more of you! Being involved in large breed rescue, it’s busier than ever at the moment here in the UK, with shelters and pounds over flowing with dogs who may or may not be XL Bullies.  

The legislation is so poor that even boxers crossed with staffies/labradors/others could be caught up in this at the moment, everyone is concerned and very confused about who needs to apply for exemptions and who doesn’t, and so many dogs are being abandoned because of it.  

According to dog law specialists, Wheldon Law, “The procedure for XL Bullies is completely different to previous BSL (breed specific legislation) when the police assess a dog and determine whether it is a prohibited type or not.  However, anyone who thinks their dog may be an XL bully can apply for a certificate of exemption and neither owner or dog are assessed or vetted in any way.  So the dogs that the government say are so dangerous they need to be banned will be added onto the list of exempted dogs without making any of the usual checks that would be made for any of the other types of prohibited dog.  Also, owners will not be able to call on the services of police experts to examine their dogs and tell them whether they fall within the government definition.  Instead owners are expected to examine their dogs against the government breed standard and photographs and decide whether or not their dog is an XL bully. (…/official-definition-of-an-xl-bully…) “

Wheldon Law go on to say, “If you are satisfied that your dog is an XL bully then applying for exemption before the deadline is the right thing to do as it means that your dog will be exempted quickly and cheaply from the ban without having to be assessed or approved by the police/court.

“But what if you just don’t know whether your dog might be deemed to be an XL bully? The government advice is that if you are not sure, then you should take a precautionary view, in other words, if in doubt apply for exemption.  There is benefit in following this guidance as it would mean that you are not at risk of being prosecuted or your dog being seized.  However, once a dog is exempted, it is subject to stringent conditions for the rest of its life including keeping it on a lead and muzzled in public. Also, if your circumstances were to change and you were no longer able to look after your dog, it is very difficult to change the registered keeper for the dog (death or serious illness of the keeper being the only reasons). There is also the cost of neutering, insurance and exemption to consider and the fact that some landlords may not allow prohibited types of dog in their properties which could potentially result in eviction for some people.”

At the moment, if your dog is a kennel club registered breed, even if they happen look like an XL Bully “type”, you don’t need to apply for exemption.  But what about the cross breeds?  It’s a bit of wait and see at the moment, but it’s such a concern.  On 31 December there will be hundreds of dogs in the pounds and rescue kennels put to sleep, for no fault of their own, purely because they are either XL Bullies or fit the very wide description.  It’s an absolute disaster and so depressing.  I also feel for the vets who will be employed to do this… it is not what they imagined when they started out as vets and must be very traumatic.

It’s the wrong end of the lead that the legislation is trying to tackle, as is so often the case unfortunately.  And it is always so devastating to hear of awful tragedies that didn’t need to happen, when dog behaviour can always be managed with solid knowledge of the species and an understanding of how it sees the world.  For example, there is such power in understanding that dogs use eye contact in totally the opposite way to us.  That, even just that, helps calm an overwhelmed, over adrenalised dog down.  I wish we were taught this at school.  If you haven’t watched my video on this, you can see it here:

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