XL Bully ban: Government has no plans to ban other American bully variants - as new 'extreme' types emerge

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Owning an XL bully without an exemption may soon be an offence, but classic, standard, pocket and even 'micro' bullies are still allowed

XL bullies may no longer be able to be bought or sold, but there are still hundreds of other American bully dogs of other variations online - including new, so-called "extreme" pocket bullies.

On Sunday (31 December, 2023), the first stage of the government's XL bully ban came into force, with the breed to be fully banned unless their owner has an exemption certificate from 1 February. All XL bully-type dogs are currently required to wear a muzzle and lead when out in public, and can no longer be bred, sold, adopted out, given away or rehomed at all.

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MPs first took aim at American XL bullies, a fairly new breed derived, in part, from pit bulls, in late September, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak later announcing the breed would be banned after two serious attacks - one of which saw a man killed. The government says XL bullies have been added to the Dangerous Dogs Act to safeguard the public following an increase in dog attacks in recent years. Up until 2021 there were around three fatalities per year, but here have been 23 since the start of 2021 – with the XL Bully being disproportionately involved in this rise.

However, the 'XL' category is just one of a number used to classify American bully dogs based on size and build. NationalWorld asked Defra whether there were any plans to ban these other bully types.

Other American bully variants - like the so-called pocket bully - are still legal (Adobe Stock)Other American bully variants - like the so-called pocket bully - are still legal (Adobe Stock)
Other American bully variants - like the so-called pocket bully - are still legal (Adobe Stock) | Vicky - stock.adobe.com

Will other American bully variants be banned?

In response to questioning, a Defra spokesperson said: “We have taken quick and decisive action to protect the public from dog attacks by adding the XL Bully type to the list of dogs prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act. We firmly believe that our approach is needed to reduce the risks to the public.

“It is now a legal requirement for all XL Bully dogs to be kept on a lead and muzzled when in public, and a criminal offence to breed, sell, advertise, gift, exchange, abandon these dogs," they continued. However, Defra said they were not currently planning to add any additional breeds to the Dangerous Dogs Act.

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Since the start of 2021, 23 people have sadly lost their lives after vicious dog attacks, and many of these tragic deaths have been linked to XL Bullies, Defra said. That was why XL Bully breed types have been added to the list of breeds prohibited by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. "We firmly believe that this approach is needed to reduce the risks to the public by this type [of dog]."

One breeder is advertising the UK's first generation of "extreme" pocket bullies (Photo: Adobe Stock)One breeder is advertising the UK's first generation of "extreme" pocket bullies (Photo: Adobe Stock)
One breeder is advertising the UK's first generation of "extreme" pocket bullies (Photo: Adobe Stock) | zanna_ - stock.adobe.com

Are other types of American bullies dangerous?

XL Bullies are the largest size category for the American bully breed, meaning they were also usually heavier and stronger, and could naturally cause more damage if they did happen to attack a person or another animal than a smaller dog.

On UK pet selling and rehoming sites, hundreds of pocket, micro, and even standard-sized American bullies and their puppies are still available to buy. Alarmingly, one ad posted just days ago - which has been seen by NationalWorld - advertised the UK's first generation of "extreme" pocket bully puppies for sale. According to a US breeder's website, extreme pocket bullies are "thick" - or broad, muscular dogs - with a compact, squat appearance. "Our dogs are known for having massive heads, dense bone, broad chests, wide shoulders, short muzzles, and being packed rock solid with muscle on short & compact frames," their website stated.

These dogs would be unlikely to grow tall enough to meet the government's XL bully criteria (19 inches at the withers for females, 20 for males) or qualify for the ban. But they would still meet a number of characteristics that Bullywatch - a UK group that tracks dog attacks by breed - argues makes these breeds dangerous, such as strength, and head or jaw shape.

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"The American Bully XL and the American Bully breeds have their foundation in the American Pit Bull Terrier (Pitbull), a breed that was added to the UK’s banned breeds list in 1991 under the Dangerous Dogs Act. The Pitbull was originally bred for its fighting ability, which is why it’s considered dangerous and is prohibited in the UK. Some believe that the crossbreeding of the Bully XL and the American Bully is an attempt to exploit a loophole in the Dangerous Dogs Act," they wrote.

"Peer-reviewed medical studies from around the world clearly show that pit bull type dogs, which include the American Bully breeds, inflict the most damage when they bite. It is not the frequency of biting that matters, it is the style of biting, tearing at flesh and bone." NationalWorld has approached Bullywatch for comment on 'extreme' pocket bullies.

As to whether these other American bully-type dogs are also dangerous, experts have yet to reach a consensus. The Dog Control Coalition, which includes the RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, the British Veterinary Association, and the Kennel Club, argue that breed-specific legislation doesn't work - and that there is no robust data suggesting any one breed is inherently more likely to bite someone than others.

American bullies in general are not currently recognised by the UK Kennel Club, but the American Bully Kennel Club in the US states that even standard or classic-build bullies may reach 19 to 20 inches at the withers. It's worth noting that the government's definition of an XL bully dog is based on physical characteristics like height, muscular bodies and blocky heads - not DNA or breeding. This means that if a 'standard' or 'classic' American bully grows to this height, it could also fall foul of the ban going forward.

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