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You’re barking up the wrong tree: Why the XL Bully ban will not solve Britain’s dangerous dog problem.

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

I often define my early teenage years by two very clear and unhealthy obsessions – Taylor Swift and puppies (both of which I unashamedly still champion as two of life’s greatest joys.) After many family dinners of begging, quite literally on hands and knees at times, I was finally sat in the back of my family car cradling a doe-eyed ball of fluff in the form of my now 6-year-old golden Labrador called Chester – Chez to his friends. When Chez was three, he was attacked by a much larger dog, leaving him with a few scars, and has since been trying to regain his confidence and sociability around dogs that he finds intimidating. The experience of watching my dream dog be pinned to the ground and mauled was horrific and one that I wish on no other owner.

Yet, when the news of the XL Bully ban came to light not a shred of my being agreed with it.

This is not to say that I don’t feel the seemingly inescapable panic at the horror stories of what this 9-stone dog is capable of. The facts themselves are startling: with six out of ten fatal dog attacks in the UK last year tied to the breed and the very public deaths and mutilations that have painted the news in recent months, including the death of a seventeen-month-old toddler just last year. It makes my own experience of dog violence appear trivial and tiny in comparison. To even imagine such loss and devastation is beyond my capabilities. Therefore, before I continue, it must be known that in no way am I vilifying the loved ones of those affected by XL Bully attacks for calling for the breed’s ban, the human need for justice and retribution for such atrocities should never be shunned.

However, to just look at the XL Bully as an inherently nefarious, and almost bloodthirsty beast, is something that I do personally consider an injustice in this case.  No idiom is more apt here for me than ‘a dog is man’s best friend’ – much like humans they have the capacity to be controlled and trained to behave violently but give a dog love and respect and it will only offer the same in return. My social media algorithms have always been attuned to my love for pooches, even more so recently, and I have watched a record number of videos on owners who have loving, docile XL Bullys and are terrified for their future. It is not the majority, but rather the minority of poorly trained XLs that are being bred for such violence.

I’ve personally heard that using the defense that these dogs are a danger due to their gang-related upbringing is a ‘cop-out.’ I easily countered that the same demonization has occurred a plethora of times before – with the banning of the Pit Bull terrier and Japanese Tosa in 1991, and the very public disdain for breeds such as the Mastiff and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Like the XL, they have all been inextricably linked to criminal circles and used frequently as a menacing demonstration of violence and status after being bred that way since their infancy. It isn’t hard to see the link between dog attacks and the type of owner behind the aggressor; it is a pattern that seems doomed to be repeated as these types of owners just move onto a new breed every few years. The cliché of ‘blame the owner not the dog’ is something I have always heard from my Dad and, now I understand more than ever the systematic problem that makes this phrase so common in my household and so many others.

Puppy Hand Fun Ring Summer Hapy Original
Charlotte Reader / Her Campus

If I were to wage into the debate personally, I would argue something that I have thought ever since I sat holding Chez for the first time – it is far too easy to just go out one day and buy a dog. We only saw Chester once and took him home the same day through a private breeder, nothing other than money was necessary to take him home with us. Much like the responsibility of driving and voting, buying a dog can a huge impact on human life and comes with a responsibility to act with safety and duty in mind. I therefore propose, instead of banning whichever breed becomes the next puppet to the nation’s bad guys, we consider the idea of a formal license. A license that is granted after thorough background checks and is something that can be subject to sanctions at any point. The responsible dog owners among us would surely have no problem with this.

The XL Bully ban is merely another misguided decision by a government that lacks true understanding of how this country is really running in this current climate. Nonetheless, I persevere: an XL bully supporter, a loving dog owner and still very much a Taylor Swift fan.

I'm Molly Broderick, a third year English and History student at the University of Bristol. Just a girl who loves to write (perhaps a little too much).