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Why XL Bully dogs are 'killing machines' – genetics, reckless breeding, twisted purpose – Mirror Online – The Mirror

Bully Watch campaigners called for an immediate ban on the ‘irresponsible’ breeding and sale of American XL Bully dogs in the UK and have slammed the RSPCA for not promoting ‘sensible’ action
American XL Bully dog ownership has surged in recent years – along with a harrowing rise in dog attacks. Seen as a status dog, the breed is hard-wired for strength and violence, which has seen pressure mount for an immediate ban before more lives are lost.
Historically created to be a killing machine to fight other dogs in the ring, the animal has now emerged as one of Britain's increasingly popular and beloved pets. But experts warn the controversial breed is uncontrollable, as proven by a string of savage attacks on both dogs and humans in the past few years.
In recent months, a group of concerned UK residents joined forces in a bid to put a stop to the bloodshed after encountering the breed while walking their own dogs. They claim XL Bullies are responsible for 14 deaths in the past two years – 11 confirmed human deaths and three suspected deaths. And estimate that 43 per cent of all attacks this year have been caused by large bully breeds.
Named Bully Watch, the members wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from the breeding community. They called for an immediate temporary ban on the sale and breeding of the creature in a bid to protect the nation's safety until there is a better understanding of data connecting specific breeds to attacks.
And now, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed the XL Bully will be added to the list of banned dogs in the UK by the end of the year as they are a "danger to our communities". The PM said it is clear this is not about a "handful of badly trained dogs but is a pattern of behaviour". However leading animal charity, the RSPCA, argues that aggression comes down to nurture, not nature, although Bully Watch warned that they need to be 'sensible' when pushing the message that no breed is inherently dangerous.
So what makes the XL bully so dangerous? Believed to have been brought over from the US in 2014, police are said to have attempted to seize the dog but failed because it was different to the banned Pit Bull. The average dog weighs 60kg and they were genetically engineered through breeding with just one purpose in mind.
"They were specifically designed to go into a pit and kill another dog," a member of Bully Watch tells The Mirror. "They have that in them. They're inbred for muscular features and size. We do know the genetics around fighting dogs are more likely to be aggressive, with high-craze drive, they’re more likely to chase after a squirrel, they've been bred for difficulty handling arousal.
"They are more likely to be aggressive. It does mean that compared to others, compared to a Labrador, or a Collie, it's more likely they will display aggressive tendencies. We've seen this on a lot of dog-on-dog attacks. But we're seeing these dogs increasingly often on our streets. Seeing how they would react when walking your dog, it just wasn't right."
Bullies – which are not recognised by the Kennel Club in the UK, therefore there is no clear figure for how many are currently owned in the country – have been crossbred with American bulldogs, English bulldogs, and American Staffordshire terriers to become supersized with a muscular and strong stature. They've become a status symbol, used as guard dogs by many owners.
The genetic makeup of the dogs is often unknown due to constant breeding, making their temperament unpredictable. Bully Watch says that in 2021, out of four fatal dog attacks, the American Bully was responsible for two deaths. In 2022, out of 10 fatal dog attacks, seven fatalities listed the American Bully as the breed responsible. Three of the victims were professional dog handlers and the incidents involved people ranging in ages from 17 months to 62 years old. Despite this, their popularity has not abated.
"They started to grow and in 2019, became very popular with more buying. The pandemic was really a fire going up in flames – suddenly everyone became backyard breeders," the member, in his late thirties, continued. "They're quite captivating, jaw-dropping, photogenic dogs, with so many online videos about them – it was all the right conditions for everyone to want these dogs and everyone wanted to breed them.
"The price for these dogs was insane, around 3-5k. People paid the masses for them because they knew they could get a lot of money from breeding them. They are status dogs but they need a lot of work and have a lot of issues. Physically, if it goes for a squirrel, you have no chance of stopping it."
Currently, there are currently just four dogs on the banned list in the UK, including the Pit Bull. The RSPCA argues that dogs shouldn't be judged on their breed alone, stating that dog aggression is highly complex and that taking a breed-focused approach is "fundamentally flawed". The spokesperson for Bully Watch also doesn't wish to label them as 'devil dogs' or 'lethal' as Home Secretary Suella Braverman described them following an attack on two men and an 11-year-old girl in a busy Birmingham street last weekend.
"They are the tragic victim of irresponsible breeding and a desire for profit over health and temperament and that's all throughout their brief history," the group member said. "I think you can make that take. It's the biggest victim in all of this, right? I'm not going to describe it as a 'devil dog', use negative or emotive language. We need to be more reasoned here."
The group, who came together after raising their concerns about the controversial breed online, have created their own database of dog attacks in the UK, which now has 850 reported incidents. Unlike the RSPCA, he says, they have worked to obtain information on the specific breed of the dogs involved, using evidence like witness statements.
While there is much debate on whether people believe the breed is intrinsically wired to kill, other canine professionals say that no one breed is more aggressive than another. Major animal charities under the Dog Control Coalition, which includes RSPCA, Battersea, Blue Cross, Dogs Trust, BVA, Scottish SPCA, The Kennel Club and Hope Rescue, believe animals should be judged on their "deed not breed".
They are calling to end the breed-specific legislation (BSL), which prohibits the keeping of certain breeds, but like Bully Watch, they also want to stop problematic breeding. A spokesperson from the Dog Control Coalition told the Mirror: "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. Thirty-two years of the Dangerous Dogs Act, which has focused on banning specific types, 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. 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."
A Mirror investigation has found that thousands of bully-type dogs are being sold online across the UK for anybody to buy without checks. There are currently 1,303 American Bully dogs and puppies for sale on online marketplace Freeads, while on Pets4Homes, there are 866 puppies being sold. Meanwhile, on Gumtree, there are 163 XL Bullys for sale.
The Bully Watch member criticises the campaign against BSL as he pleads with the RSPCA to be "sensible". "They have to stop with this stubborn view that BSL is an inherently bad thing," he added. "The science is unsettled and a lot of it isn't conclusive as they claim and there's a reason for that. Medical studies clearly show that Pit Bull-type dogs 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."
Emma Whitfield, 32, had to identify her 10-year-old son, Jack Lis, by his shoe after he was mauled to death by an XL bully almost two years ago. So why is it only now that people seem to be listening? The Bully Watch spokesperson says it's down to the video footage from the weekend, which showed the mauling in action. "We document stories like this all the time but no one films it which is the issue. It's so different when you see the reality compared to reading about it. Just imagine the victims, imagine how they feel."
Like many others, he argues there needs to be a new system of regulating dog breeds in the UK. "But that shouldn't be at the expense of action now. We have a real and immediate problem that needs addressing," he warned. "Longer term, we need structural reform, surely there has to be something better?
"But I do think breed-specific legislation just makes sense. Why would you treat the danger posed by a small dog like a cockerpoo with some of the larger breeds, it just seems like a more sensible solution. We need to have measures in place because they're [Bullies] seemingly everywhere now and we need to take more precautions."
So what does the Government say? Since the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) responsible for adding dogs, four breeds are currently illegal to own – Pit Bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.
Do you think American XL bully dogs should be banned? Vote in our poll HERE to have your say.
Just last month, Tory ministers faced a backlash as they refused to ban the killer breed of XL Bullies behind a spate of horror dog attacks. MPs from all sides demanded urgent action however ministers quietly announced in August that they did not intend to introduce a ban.
In response to a written question in the House of Lords asking what consideration they have given to adding the Bully XL to the list of banned dog breeds, Environment Minister Lord Benyon said there were “no plans” to do so. But following the weekend's attack on three people, Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced she was seeking “urgent advice” on whether the breed should indeed be banned. Braverman said: "The American XL bully is a clear and lethal danger to our communities, particularly children. We can't go on like this.”
Her intervention was criticised by mum Emma Whitfield, who wrote on Twitter: "It's crazy how this video has gone viral and now politicians are coming out of the woodwork saying how bad it is. Where were you when my son was killed? …. If you're going to do something, please do it. Stop pussyfooting around the 'breed neutral' bull crap and do something."
But now, the Prime Minister has confirmed action will be taken. In a video posted on his Twitter, Mr Sunak said: "The American XL Bully Dog is a danger to our communities, particularly our children. I share the nation's horror at the recent videos we've all seen. Yesterday we saw another suspected XL Bully Dog attack, which has tragically led to a fatality. It's clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs. It's a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on.
"While owners already have a responsibility to keep their dogs under control, I want to reassure people that we are urgently working on ways to stop these attacks and protect the public. Today I have tasked ministers to bring together police and experts to firstly define the breed of dog behind these attacks with a view to then outlawing it. It is not currently a breed defined in law, so this vital first step must happen fast. We will then ban the breed under the dangerous dogs and new laws will be in place by the end of the year. These dogs are dangerous. I want to reassure the public that we will take all necessary steps to keep people safe."
The Mirror is calling for these changes:
1. The overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act . An urgent review of the law is needed and tougher penalties should be considered.
2. Enforce the rules to stop the illegal and irresponsible breeding and selling of dogs.
3. A public information campaign to promote the importance of responsible dog ownership and the need for training.
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