XL bully dog ban comes into force in Scotland - owners and trainers react

It is still be legal for current owners to keep their pets but XL bullies must be muzzled and on a lead when in public.

Restrictions around XL bully dogs have come into force in Scotland.

New legislation that became active at midnight means owners are now banned from selling, advertising, gifting, exchanging or abandoning the breed.

It is still be legal for current owners to keep their pets but XL bullies must be muzzled and on a lead when in public.

John Allison, a dog trainer with the K9 Way, told STV News he was “extremely disappointed” that the Scottish Government had brought in similar legislation to that passed at Westminster.

“I believe it was rushed through,” he said.

John Allison.STV News

“They left dog owners, and responsible dog owners at that, in a position where they became vulnerable because they had initially stated that they would not follow the ruling from Westminster and that Scotland would do their own thing and follow a ‘deed, not breed’ approach.

“This has been totally contradicted and they have now rushed through legislation – legislation that the Scottish Government has stated they don’t agree with; yet they have copied it almost to the letter.

“A dog’s specific breed does not determine its temperament or its nature. We should be assessing this on an individual basis and not deeming it on a breed alone.

“No-one is disputing that across the whole dog community that we do have dangerous dogs, but this is not specific to an individual breed.

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The ban is phase one of the Scottish Government’s move to close loopholes opened after the dogs were outlawed in England and Wales.

Earlier this week, a Holyrood committee backed the introduction of safeguarding rules on XL bully dogs in Scotland.

Criminal Justice Committee MSPs said they “reluctantly” backed the legislative changes, which include a secondary stage meaning that from August 1, it will be an offence to own an XL bully without having or applied for an exemption certificate.

Anyone convicted of breaching the safeguards could face up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

Siobhian Brown, community safety minister, said the decision to replicate UK Government legislation was “not made lightly” but it was essential to remove “loopholes” the laws had created.

It follows concerns over an influx of XL bullies to Scotland since the controls were brought in south of the border at the end of last year.

But some owners say they’re being unfairly punished and question how authorities will be able to police the move.

Alison Laird.STV News

Alison Laird said: “I don’t think this ban is going to change very much. I don’t agree with the way it has been introduced.

“I’m not saying there shouldn’t be something in place but I don’t believe that the relevant authorities who are going to be left to police this have got the resources to be able to do it justice.

“It’s kind of putting a sticking plaster over a problem – the problem isn’t necessarily the breed, it’s unscrupulous breeders, it’s owners who don’t look after them, who don’t have any understanding of what to do. It’s about education, it’s about consequences and about licensing, and about making sure that we’re protecting everybody.

“The ban has come in, I still don’t know how I’m supposed to register it and I don’t know where that’s going to happen. I still haven’t got anywhere in terms of a licence so it’s a bit of a mish-mash, it’s not been particularly well thought through.

“I think it’s been an overreaction.”

SNP MSP Christine Grahame, who authored the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 which gave local authorities powers to impose control notices on dog owners, had urged the committee to back her motion to annul the secondary legislation taking effect in Scotland.

Her arguments centred around the failure of the UK and Scottish governments to formally define what an XL bully breed is.

Official guidance states the dogs – which are not recognised as an official breed by the UK Kennel Club – can be defined as having a “muscular body, blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for [their] size”, with males characterised as at least 20 inches from the shoulder to the ground and 19 inches for females.

The motion to annul was unanimously rejected.

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