New rules on XL Bully ownership but no NI ban

New rules on XL Bully ownership but no NI ban

XL Bully-type dogs will not be banned in Northern Ireland under new plans to restrict their ownership, new agriculture minister Andrew Muir has revealed.

Under new rules it will remain legal to own one of the dogs but they must be muzzled and on a lead in public.

The agriculture and rural affairs minister also said a new scheme will be set up requiring owners to register their dog with the authorities. The dogs also must all be neutered and breeding them has been banned.

The breed has already been banned in England and Wales. Scotland introduced similar laws in February.

The legislation was brought in as the government faced pressure to act, after the breed was linked to a string of serious and sometimes fatal attacks.

The USPCA said they are “disappointed” with the decision and “cannot support it”.

“In the 30 years since the Dangerous Dogs Act has been in effect, it has done nothing to reduce dog attacks. It will also mean that scarce resources will be stretched even further, with no impact,” said Nora Smith, Chief Executive of the USPCA, adding that better education around owning these dogs and better enforcement around irresponsible dog owners is needed.

“Since the intention was announced to extend the legislation in England, Scotland and Wales, we have been calling for Northern Ireland to adopt an evidence-based approach that will lead the way in reducing these attacks.

“The USPCA and indeed other animal welfare charities, recommend a wider programme of educating the public about these dogs and how to look after them.

“Promoting responsible pet ownership is crucial and helping people to understand these dogs will mean that more and more people might think twice about buying a dog like this to own.

“We already have legislation at our disposal to be respond to irresponsible dog owners, that is what we should be focussing on, better enforcement.”

Speaking at Stormont, Mr Muir said he had not taken the decision lightly.

“There are 140 XL Bully breed type dogs licensed right now, up from around 90 last October,” he added.

“Therefore, it is time to act, whilst numbers remain manageable and while we can – in the main – track where these dogs are.”

It is understood the move will require legislation that could come before the assembly in summer or early autumn.

The new rules will also make it illegal to abandon, rehome, sell, buy, or transfer ownership of an XL bully.

Dogs will also have to be neutered and breeding will be banned.

The department said if an owner of an XL bully does not want to follow the measures and no longer wishes to keep their dog, it will have to be put down.

Mr Muir added: “No owner will be forced to give up their dog or made to hand over their dog.

“I am giving the owners of XL Bully breed type dogs the ability to be responsible and compassionate owners.”

He added that he was aware of calls to deal with “the deed not the breed” but had to act in light of safety risks.

The minister said that in the five months since measures had been announced in Great Britain, there has been a rise of more than 50% in the number of XL Bully breed type dogs licenced by councils in Northern Ireland.

“I cannot rule out that the significant uplift in XL Bully dogs finding a home here is due to displacement from England, Scotland and Wales,” he added.

He said he was concerned that the figure could also be under-reported.

Four breeds that are currently banned in Northern Ireland include Pit Bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero.