Scotland will join England and Wales in strictly regulating the bully XL dog breed, after some of the dog breed owners in those two countries scrambled to send their dogs north to avoid rules already in place at home.
The country’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, said in Parliament on Thursday that Scotland would “in essence, replicate the legislation that is in England and Wales.”
“I am afraid that it has become clear in the past few weeks that we have seen a flow of XL bully dogs to Scotland,” he said in a response to a query.
The bully, or American bully as it is also known, is a relatively new breed that is a mix of pit bull and other terriers as well as bulldogs. The XL in its name indicates a larger size, with the dog normally weighing 100 to 150 pounds and measuring 20 to 23 inches from the ground to the shoulders.
The dogs have landed on the public radar after several attacks on humans, including fatalities over the last few years. Bully Watch, a group that advocates strict regulation, says that roughly half of all dog attacks on humans in Britain are by larger bullys and that 11 confirmed human fatalities were caused by bully XL dogs since 2021.
The policy in England and Wales, which fully kicks in at the end of this month, makes it illegal to sell, give away, abandon or breed a bully XL. The dogs must be kept on a leash and muzzled in public. Those who want to keep their dogs must apply for an exemption and microchip and neuter their dogs. The government said that, as of last month, 4,000 exemption requests had been received. It was unclear how many would be approved.
The policy says that those who fail to comply could receive a criminal record and a fine.
The rules led some dog owners in England to try to find new homes for their dogs in Scotland. Alex Gregory, from Shaw, near Manchester, told The Manchester Evening News that she drove 1,000 miles to transport several bullys to Scotland in December and January.
“Some people could just not afford to get dogs to a vet to pay for them to microchipped and to pay for their details to be logged on a computer,” she said. Critics of the regulations say the bully is being unfairly singled out, perhaps in part because the breed is popular in poorer neighborhoods. They also say that restricting any specific breed is unfair and ineffective, because owners will continue to create new breeds that are also potentially dangerous.
A group that fights restrictions on specific breeds, Don’t Ban Me, Licence Me, said that all dogs should have licenses, regardless of breed, and that dog owners should be educated. “By ending breed-specific legislation and focusing on responsible ownership, we can create safer communities for both humans and dogs,” the group said on its website.
Advocates like those at Bully Watch, however, note an increase in fatal dog attacks on humans, a significant number of them by bullys. Between 2001 and 2021, an average of three people in Britain died each year after being bitten or struck by a dog. In 2023, 16 died, according to the Office for National Statistics.