XL bully dogs will not be banned in NI – ministeron March 5, 2024 at 11:44 am

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

XL Bully dog DukeImage source, Reuters

XL bully dogs will not be banned in NI under new plans to restrict their ownership, Andrew Muir has said.

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 breed has already been banned in England and Wales. Scotland introduced similar laws last month.

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.

What is an XL bully?

Graphic on definition of XL bully

Speaking at Stormont on Tuesday, 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 scheme will require owners of XL bullys to:

  • Appropriately record and account for their dog, with the relevant authorities
  • Keep their dog muzzled and on a lead at all times in public

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.

Responsible owners

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 said: “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.

There are four breeds of dogs that are banned in Northern Ireland:

  • Pit Bull terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Braziliero

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.

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