XL Bully: woman fears she'll have her assistance dog taken from her as ban on breed introduced next year

Josie Shanaham has used an XL bully as an assistance dog for two years, but a ban on the breed has raised fears that she may lose her pooch
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A woman who uses an XL Bully as an assistance dog has said that she fears her pup might be taken from her when a new ban on the breed comes into force in England and Wales next year.

Josie Shanaham, 27 from Woodbury, Devon, first received XL Bully 'Mars' when she was 25 years old. She suffers from bipolar disorder and anxiety and has said that having Mars, who is classed as an auxiliary dog, in her life has had a huge impact on her mental health - Mars often sits in Josie's lap to calm her down during emotional breakdowns.

Josie said: "His presence and effect on my mental health opened up our lives and let us out of the cage. My mum’s able to work again, and I’m able to go out and go to college by myself - which I could never have done before Mars."

However, a new government ban on the breed could see the assistance dog taken away from her. The ban will see XL bully owners forced to put a lead and muzzle on their pet in public, while they must be put in a secure place at home.

The ban will come into effect on 1 February 2024 and will stop the sale of the dog breed, with pre-existing owners forced to register their dog. It has been introduced after a spate of attacks by the dog breed across the country.

However, Josie has said that she believes her accommodation will not be deemed as appropriate to home the dog under the new rules. She lives in a caravan and fears that rules that will require XL Bully owners to keep the pet in a place in which the dog cannot escape will not be covered by this type of accommodation.

Josie also said that she has noted a change in attitude from the public when she is out and about with Mars. She said: “I’m scared to go out because the dog is bringing so much attention. Either people telling me I shouldn’t have the dog or people wanting to pet him and say how lovely he is and that it’s not fair the bully’s are getting banned."

The dog owner added: “Even my mum who was sceptical about me getting an XL Bully fell in love with him after less than a day. He wears a double leash, but he would never hurt anyone, even when smaller dogs attack, he doesn’t retaliate at all.

“As soon as I took him home I connected with him, he always knows when I’m upset, or need any support from him. As far as we know he’s the only fully-qualified American XL bully assistance dog in the country.”

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