5 Oct 2023

New Zealanders defend extra large bully breed after UK moves to ban

From Morning Report, 7:50 am on 5 October 2023
A dog with a round head and large body.

A bully-breed type dog. Photo: Unsplash

XL bully dog breeders in New Zealand are preparing to defend their dogs, after attacks in Britain mean a ban is likely there.

The breed is not recognised by Dogs New Zealand, but was created by mixing American pit bull terriers, American bulldogs, English bulldogs, and other breeds.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a video to social media the dogs are dangerous, and the breed should be banned.

"It's clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs. It's a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on.

"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."

The XL bully is a large muscular dog and can weigh up to 60 kilogrammes. The dogs range in height between 43 and 50 centimetres between the shoulder blades.

Multiple high-profile attacks, some fatal, have been attributed to the dogs in Britain. London-based reporter Ellie Jay said they had attracted a lot of attention.

"A 65-year-old grandmother was killed trying to stop a fight between two of the dogs and just in the past couple of weeks a young girl was hospitalised after an attack that went viral on social media."

A person in the UK was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of murder after two dogs believed to be XL bully breeds were involved in another fatal attack.

Dogs New Zealand canine health and welfare officer Rhea Hurley said it was hard to tell what the numbers were in Aotearoa.

"Extra-large bullies aren’t registered by Dogs NZ so we don’t have a good idea of the numbers of XL bullies that are around, we do know there are a few in New Zealand."

XL bully breeder Samariah (who did not want her surname used) said the dogs did not deserve their bad reputation.

"They're just big babies. Honestly, I know that when you see them, they look quite scary, but from my experience, they're just big old babies."

It was a sentiment echoed by NZ veterinary association head of companion animal veterinary services Sally Cory.

"They actually can be very sweet, very loyal, very affectionate, really good dogs to deal with. So, if these dogs have been well trained, they're well socialised, they've been well bred, they actually can have really lovely temperaments."

Samariah was hopeful New Zealand would not ban the breed, and Cory agreed. She was hoping more work could be done around responsible dog ownership.

"People are encouraged to obviously do the right thing, to be researching where they are sourcing these dogs from to ensure that they are well socialised when they're young and that they're putting in the time and the effort into actually training these dogs well."

In New Zealand there are five breeds which are banned from import. They are the American Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, Japanese Tosa, and Perror de Presa Canario.

Britain has taken the first step towards outlawing the XL bully - working on defining the breed first so the ban can then be drawn up.