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OPINION - Suella Braverman is right: ban the bully XL dog now

The American bully XL is bred for fighting  (Shutterstock / Vicky1981)
The American bully XL is bred for fighting (Shutterstock / Vicky1981)

There are few things that can come close to being described as a national religion in the UK. The NHS is, of course, the mostly commonly cited example, but I’d hazard a guess that another issue evokes a loyalty on a similarly visceral level — dogs.

Dogs are an issue on which I have always felt myself to be slightly on the margins. I care deeply about animals and I like dogs, but I have never quite been able to fully buy into the cult.

So, when a video was circulated online over the weekend of an 11-year-old girl and two men being viciously attacked by an out-of-control American bully XL in Birmingham, there seemed to me only one rational solution — we must ban the breeding of this dog immediately. For context, the number of deaths as a result of dog attacks more than doubled last year, rising from four in 2021, to 10 in 2022. A further five have occurred so far in 2023. One breed has been linked to at least nine of those deaths: the American bully XL. The RSPCA has warned that bully XLs, which are bred for fighting, are being overbred and sold to launder money.

While I am generally loath to agree with Braverman, here we are completely aligned

Responding to the video, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said she is seeking “urgent” advice on the banning of these “lethal” dogs. While I am generally loath to agree with Braverman, here we are completely aligned.

I understand the hesitation to authorise the “destruction” (a truly awful term) of existing American bully XLs, but a ban on their breeding, and regulation in public spaces, are surely common- sense measures.

And for those crying “it’s not the dog, it’s the owner”, I agree. Of course, not every bully XL is a bloodthirsty beast, and any dog can be mistreated and trained to become aggressive. But, even with the most irresponsible owner, a chihuahua isn’t going to kill anyone.

Nine times out of 10, dogs are a blessing. But we cannot allow our love of our own pets to cloud our judgment. There is no justification for children being mauled and maimed. What some dog owners need to understand: your dog has the potential to be an extremely dangerous animal.

Emma Loffhagen is an Evening Standard writer