Dog Control Coalition Response to Restrictions on XL Bully Type Dogs in Northern Ireland

06 Mar 2024

Following the announcement about restrictions being placed on American XL Bully type dogs in Northern Ireland, the Dog Control Coalition – which is made up of Battersea, Blue Cross, BVA, Dogs Trust, Hope Rescue, PDSA, RSPCA, SSPCA, The Kennel Club, USPCA and Wood Green – has issued the following response:

Our top priority is public safety. We need action and solutions that protect the public as well as safeguarding animal welfare. However, banning dogs because of the way they look is not the answer.

We are as concerned as everyone else regarding the reports of dog attacks and the injuries and fatalities we have seen. However, in the 32 years since the Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland Order) 1991 has been in effect, Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) has done nothing to reduce dog attacks. Therefore, we are disappointed the Minister has elected to extend this flawed approach. It will also mean that scarce resources will be stretched even further, with no impact, when there was an opportunity to take a different approach. We need to shift the focus from dogs to the owners, promoting responsible pet ownership and breeding, alongside better enforcement of existing legislation to effectively tackle the root cause of the issue.

We will continue to work with DAERA to promote responsible pet ownership, seek more support for enforcement and tackle long-standing dog breeding issues that exacerbate the problems associated with dog bite incidents.

We urge the Northern Ireland Government to learn the lessons from the rushed implementation of the ban in England and Wales. It must make sure that there is a sufficient transition period to new restrictions, so that owners have the time and support needed to be able to exempt their dogs, and to ensure neutering capacity is available, and that the process is as clear and simple as possible for dog owners, vet teams and the rescue charities who will be left to pick up the pieces of this ill-considered legislation.

It is also crucial that the teams responsible for enforcing this law have the resources and training they need before the ban begins to avoid any more dogs than absolutely necessary from being caught up in this.