The government has confirmed it will not repeal breed-specific measures in the Dangerous Dogs Act, and that the ban on XL bully breed-types will be enacted in the new year as planned, despite a huge public response to petitions against the legislation.
From December 31 it will be against the law to breed or sell XL bully breed-types in England and Wales, while from February 1, 2024, it will be illegal to be in possession of one unless owners have a certificate of exemption. More than 600,000 people have put their name to a petition opposing the inclusion of XL bullies in the Act, while more than 100,000 signed a separate one calling for a rethink of the entire legislative framework for dangerous dogs. The numbers were sufficient in both cases to trigger a formal debate in Westminster, which took place on Monday evening (November 27).
During the debate, Food, Farming and Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer, said that there had been an increase in serious and fatal dog attacks in recent years, and that “the XL bully breed-type appears to have been disproportionately involved in that rise in attacks.”
He continued: “We recognise the strength of feeling on breed-specific legislation, and that some people are opposed to the prohibition of specific breed-types. However, the Government must balance those views with our responsibility to protect public safety. We remain concerned that lifting any restrictions may result in more dog attacks. Therefore, there are no plans to repeal the breed-specific provisions in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.”
The well-attended debate, which ran for more than two hours, featured contributions from a number of MPs from both sides of the house, including Dr Thérèse Coffey, who was the Secretary of State responsible for adding XL bullies to the prohibited list when the announcement was made in October.
She defended the legislation, saying that “a lot of care and attention has been given to the detail”, and revealed that she had received “several death threats” since initiating the ban.
Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, supported the ban but raised concerns from within the veterinary community about the implications of euthanising pet dogs and called for an extension to the legislation’s neutering deadline in order to ease vets’ workload.
He also called for “a longer piece of work to be done in parallel with this short-term legislation.”
Hudson added: “We need to look at responsible breeding, responsible dog ownership, responsible training and responsible socialising of those animals, and we need to tackle some of the issues that have been raised, such as the iniquitous existence of puppy farms and unscrupulous breeders.”
The government could yet face a legal challenge to the legislation, as campaigners are seeking a judicial review.