Which dog breeds are already illegal in the UK? Animal charities say breed bans won't work, amid push to add XL bullies

There are four dog breeds already banned in the UK, and people can be jailed up to six months for owning one
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The Home Secretary has joined calls for a fifth dog breed to be banned in the UK, after a devastating attack on an 11-year-old girl.

The Birmingham girl was attacked by an American XL Bully on Saturday (9 September), while two men who tried to help her were also injured. American bullies - a fairly new breed with pit bull ancestry - have been linked to a large number of recent bites and attacks.

In 2021, two of the four fatal dog attacks in the UK involved an American bully, while in 2022, they were involved in six out of 10 fatal dog attacks.

Now MPs, including Suella Braverman, are looking into whether the breed can be banned, but animal charities and expert organisations argue banning specific breeds has not worked so far - and that the government should consider a different approach.

But which other dog breeds have been banned in the UK, and why? Here's everything you need to know.

(Clockwise from left) The Japanese tosa, pit bull terrier, Dogo Aregntino and Fila Brasiliero are already illegal in the UK (NationalWorld/Adobe Stock)(Clockwise from left) The Japanese tosa, pit bull terrier, Dogo Aregntino and Fila Brasiliero are already illegal in the UK (NationalWorld/Adobe Stock)
(Clockwise from left) The Japanese tosa, pit bull terrier, Dogo Aregntino and Fila Brasiliero are already illegal in the UK (NationalWorld/Adobe Stock)

Which dog breeds are already banned in the UK?

According to the UK government, there are four dog breeds banned in the UK.

These include the pit bull terrier, the Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro. The Tosa and Dogo Argentino were originally bred as fighting dogs, with the Japanese Tosa still used in legal dog fights in their home country of Japan today.

The pit bull, a term used in the UK to refer to the American pit bull terrier, was also developed in the US for blood sports, and descended from breeds developed for bull-baiting and dog fighting. Some advocates for the breed claim pit bulls are so gentle they were once referred to as "nanny dogs", although this is fiercely disputed.

The Fila Brasileiro was originally a working mastiff breed, with its name meaning to hold, arrest, or grab. The breed was long used on plantations to chase down runaway slaves and return them to their owners, when slavery was still legal in Brazil. Being bred for this purpose has lead to them being considered dangerous in incapable hands.

It is also illegal to sell, abandon, give away, or breed from a banned dog in the UK.

If you are found to own a banned breed, the police or local council dog warden can take your dog away, even if it isn't acting dangerously. You can be given an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months for having a banned dog, and the dog may also be destroyed.

What do experts and animal charities think about breed bans?

A spokesperson from the Dog Control Coalition, which is made up of the RSPCA, Battersea, Blue Cross, Dogs Trust, BVA, Scottish SPCA, The Kennel Club and Hope Rescue, said the latest attack was "deeply distressing".

"We are all incredibly concerned about the rising number of dog bite incidents and the biggest priority of everyone involved is to protect the public." However, they said the Dangerous Dogs Act, which has focused on banning specific types, has been around for 32 years, and has coincided with a troubling increase in dog bites and fatalities, "which shows that this approach simply isn't working".

“Sadly, the increased popularity of American XL bullies has made them valuable commodities, resulting in irresponsible breeding, rearing and ownership, which can all contribute to an increased likelihood of aggression in dogs, regardless of breed," they said.

"However, the view of all leading animal charities is that the solution is not banning more types. Instead, the government needs to focus on the improvement and enforcement of current breeding and dog control regulations, and on promoting responsible dog ownership and training.”

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