Brown raises concerns over impact of American XL Bully ban on Northern Ireland

Alliance Animal Welfare spokesperson Patrick Brown MLA has voiced his opposition to the new breed-specific law in England and Wales, expressing his concerns over its potential repercussions in Northern Ireland and impact on animal welfare.

Patrick Brown animal welfare

The government announced the ban on October 31 in response to a notable increase in dog attacks during the 2022/23 period. The new law, effective as of December 31, prohibits the purchase, sale, breeding, and giving away of American XL Bully (AXLB) breed dogs throughout England and Wales. From February 1, ownership of an AXLB is illegal unless the owner has applied for an exemption.


However, the breed-specific legislation will not extend to Northern Ireland, raising concerns about the potential for an influx of AXLB dog abandonment due to the lack of regulations.


The South Down MLA has said: "Breed-specific legislation is not an effective solution to the issues at hand, and fails to address the root cause of dog attacks, which are more often linked to poor dog ownership and breeding practices rather than the specific breed of the dog.


“For example, despite the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991, which banned four specific breeds in the UK, the number of dog attacks has increased.


“As there is currently no functioning Executive, there is no immediate legislative action able to be taken to prevent the potential mass dumping of AXLB dogs in Northern Ireland, or NI becoming an unintended back channel for owners or breeders seeking to avoid the ban. In fact, I am already hearing reports of this happening in our shelters. There are already pre-existing pressures on animal shelters and welfare organisations due to funding cuts and increased running costs, and we simply cannot afford any further burden. We need Stormont restored urgently to address these challenges.


Looking ahead, Brown also said: “Evidence has demonstrated that breed specific legislation is not effective in the long-term. Emphasis needs to be placed instead on increasing regulation of dog ownership and breeding, and I hope to bring forward a private members bill when Stormont is restored to address this issue.


“It will aim to strengthen the protection of dog welfare, addressing issues such as puppy farms, proper microchipping, and promoting appropriate medical care, socialisation, and exercise for puppies.


“Studies have shown that breed alone is not an indicator of aggressiveness. Puppy socialisation, conditions and environment in which they live and are brought up in are crucial factors in determining aggressiveness in dogs. So shifting the focus towards responsible dog ownership and breed-neutral legislation to educate owners, promote proper training, and encourage responsible breeding practices is how we effectively prevent dog attacks on a long-term, consistent basis.


Whilst I am deeply saddened to hear of anyone who has been the victim of a dog attack, I urge the public to separate the deed from breed. There’s so much more we can do in terms of regulation and legislative change to prevent these tragic incidents from occurring. For anyone who is worried by this ban or what it means for them, their dog or a local animal welfare organisation, please do not hesitate to contact me.”