The Dangerous Dogs Act became law in 1991. We've had over 30 years of banning specific breeds and attacks are still increasing. This would suggest that blanket bans are not a solution. And I have to reiterate, the XL bully isn't a breed. It doesn't have unique genetic markers. From what I can tell, the criteria for being considered an XL bully is if it is "bigger and stronger" than a pit bull terrier, another type which isn't defined genetically as a breed.
It seems like moving away from breed-based bans would actually make people safer. Rather than quibbling over whether your dog is or isn't a particular breed/type, the focus could be on whether it has aggressive tendencies and poses a risk to people. If it does, then it shouldn't matter what breed it is, it faces restrictions or - in the worst cases - euthanasia.If a police officer suspects a dog may be a terrier, it is seized and compared to the American Dog Breeder Association Standard.
"There are 60-odd points of what a pit bull terrier should look like," says Ms Connolly.
"The dog is measured, proportioned, how much bigger is its head than its chest, what does its tail look like? And subjective things like springy gait. So it is compared and the police make a decision as to whether that dog has a substantial number of the characteristics of a pit bull terrier."
The result, she says, would mean expensive arguments in court to even decide if a dog fell under the category of American XL bully in the first place.
The problem seems to be that we have some breeders who are specifically breeding for aggression. This can happen accidentally - this article mentions a breeding line of golden retrievers that had very aggressive puppies about 20 years ago. The article doesn't mention what happened but I suspect that line was no longer bred from as no-one wants an aggressive golden retriever. But that requires responsible breeders and aggression to be an undesirable trait.
In the UK breeding licences are already required for anyone breeding 3 or more litters a year, or who are doing so to make a profit, though the precise conditions vary depending on which country you're in. Breeding without a license can result in up to 6 months in prison or an unlimited fine if caught.
I've struggled to work out if puppy farms are still legal. I've found some sources (e.g. this PDF) that say they are legal and are licenced by local authorities but Lucy's Law now bans sales via third parties which would make these farms very difficult to operate legally. However, it seems illegal farms are booming.
The RSPCA has a campaign to ban the importation of puppies from overseas as they are often from puppy farms with poor welfare and little consideration for the long-term health of the animals. The government's Kept Animal Bill, which would have helped tackle these imports (among other animal welfare aims) was dropped by the government earlier this year.
After learning all this my questions are now:
1) what proportion of XL bullies have been bred in the UK and what proportion have been brought in from overseas?
2) for those born in the UK, what proportion of XL bullies have come from licenced breeders and what proportion have come from unlicensed breeders?
3) of those from unlicensed breeders, what proportion should have had a licence (i.e. who met the criteria) and what proportion are from breeders who didn't need one?
I think getting answers to these questions would help work out where we need to focus efforts in relation to this particular type of dog.
I'd like to make it clear, in case it wasn't already, that I think an increase in aggressive dogs is bad and is a trend worth trying to reverse. This is why I think it's important to implement measures that actually work.