XL bully dogs to be banned in Scotland, Humza Yousaf confirms

The Scottish Government will follow measures already announced in England to prevent the country from becoming a 'dumping ground' for the breed.

Unlicensed XL bully dogs will be banned in Scotland to prevent the country from becoming a “dumping ground” for the breed, Humza Yousaf has confirmed.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government will mirror measures taken in England and Wales.

Under the new rules, existing owners will be required to consider whether they wish to keep their dogs. If they do, they will have to apply and pay a fee for an exemption permit.

This will require owners to ensure appropriate safeguards are taken for their XL Bully dogs such as muzzling when in public, being on a lead when in public, taking out insurance and neutering their dogs. 

It will also be illegal to sell an XL Bully dog, abandon a dog or let it stray or give it away.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 7: First Minister Humza Yousaf during First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, on December 7, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)
Humza Yousaf said Scotland will replicate measures to restrict XL bullies taken in England and Wales.

The decision to ban the animal in England has seen an influx of the breed being rehomed in Scotland.

Asked after FMQs how many XL bullies have crossed the border, a spokesperson for the First Minister said he did not know.

Measures to restrict the animal were prompted by numerous reports of attacks in recent months.

STV News spoke to a 77-year-old woman on Wednesday who spent 11 days in hospital after being mauled by an XL bully in Clackmannanshire.

The attack led to fractures in her arm and knee as well as other serious injuries that required skin grafts.

Yousaf confirmed on Thursday that the Scottish Government will “in essence replicate” UK legislation banning the dogs without a licence.

He said the decision to replicate the Dangerous Dogs Act will be taken pending a parliamentary statement next week after the country saw an influx of dogs being abandoned north of the border.

“We recognise that the vast majority of dog owners are responsible animal lovers,” Yousaf said.

“However, now that we know the full implications for Scotland of the UK government’s measures, we are urgently bringing forward new safeguards on XL Bully dogs.

“It is essential Scotland is not adversely impacted because of any loopholes created as a consequence of the introduction of the UK Government’s policy in England and Wales.

“Recent reports of XL Bully dogs being moved to Scotland from south of the border are concerning and it’s important we do not become a dumping ground for the breed, leading to unacceptable risks to public safety and animal welfare.

“We will be working at pace to bring forward necessary regulations to mirror the system introduced in England and Wales as soon as possible.

“We will continue to engage with key stakeholders going forward and to offer practical support to help owners comply with these new safeguards.”

‘The SNP appeared blindsided by these dogs being rehomed in Scotland’

The Scottish Tories said the move represented a “humiliating U-turn” for Yousaf.

MSP Jamie Greene said: “The First Minister and his colleagues have wasted months playing political games and causing worry, only to now announce they will, rightly, replicate the UK Government’s ban anyway.

“Having picked a needless fight with the UK Government, the SNP appeared blindsided by these dogs being rehomed in Scotland – when everyone else knew it would be the inevitable consequence of their actions.

“SNP ministers’ stubborn refusal to back a sensible UK-wide policy only put lives at risk in Scotland, caused unnecessary confusion and has led to huge repercussions over animal welfare.

“Humza Yousaf’s belated climbdown is welcome but he has serious questions to answer over why this became a constitutional grievance and why he left it so late to take decisive action.”

Scottish SPCA ‘disappointed’ with Scottish Government ban

The Scottish SPCA said while it supports legislation to protect the public and has concerns about recent dog attacks, it is “disappointed” with the Scottish Government’s decision.

“We remain opposed to a ban of this type on a specific dog type, which we believe is not the most effective way to protect the public,” the charity said.

“Instead, we believe any breed of dog can be potentially out of control and dangerous in the wrong hands.

“We believe that anyone found guilty of owning a dangerous dog that has been involved in an attack should be automatically banned for life from owning another dog.”

The Scottish SPCA said it had not seen an increase in the number of XL bully dogs coming into its centres since the restrictions came into force in England and Wales.

A spokesperson for the charity continued: “We urge the Scottish Government to ensure that any legislation is introduced with a sufficient transition period to ensure that owners have the time and support needed to be able to exempt their dogs.

“We also call on the Scottish Government to ensure that the teams responsible for enforcing this law have the resources and training they need before the ban begins to ensure that no more dogs than absolutely necessary become caught up in this.”

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