The owner of a secure dog exercise field has said legislation that will make it illegal to rehome an XL bully-type dog from a rescue centre after Sunday is a “death sentence” and “nothing short of murder” for the thousands of “innocent” dogs caught up in the upcoming ban.
Following a rise in attacks and fatalities caused by XL bully dogs, the Government has added them to the list of those banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
From New Year’s Eve it will be illegal to sell, abandon, let stray, give away, breed from the dogs or have them in public without a lead and muzzle.
Steph Cheadle, who runs the Dogs Paddocks secure exercise area at Byley, described the blanket ban as “lazy, inappropriate, and not fit for purpose”.
“And as the legislation has been brought in very quickly, it’s given less time for anyone to understand fully or comply with it,” she said.
Rehoming centres are being offered £100 compensation towards any euthanasia costs and XL bully owners are being offered a £200 incentive if they take their pet to be put to sleep at a registered vet practice by 31st January 2024.
The “Chronicle” spoke to Debbie Connolly, who assesses, reports, and appears as a court witness for dangerous dog cases in England, Wales, and Scotland. She said she had also heard from several people who have had letters or emails from their housing officers saying they cannot keep their dogs after 31st December, and they faced eviction proceedings if they did not comply.
“Many sad posts have appeared from people saying they are having to choose between keeping their home or their dog. Upset children, owners in an impossible situation and Christmas on top of this. Owners are struggling with the usual cost of kids and Christmas and fundraising has been done on some groups to pay the fees to help owners keep their dogs.”
Anyone wanting to keep their dog after the ban must apply for a certificate of exemption by 31st January, and pay a non-refundable fee of £92.40.
Ms Cheadle said it was “absolutely insane” that people living in social housing were potentially being left with no choice other than to abandon their pets.
The “Chronicle” asked people in Congleton town centre what they thought of the Government’s “knee-jerk” reaction to the spate of attacks.
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said her friend, who has special needs and lived on her own in social housing, had been “in tears” over the ban.
“She is scared she will have to get rid of her dog. Like me, she loves her dog and would do anything to keep it safe. Her dog is well-trained. Dogs mean everything to a family.
“I know people who are terrified. They won’t even take their dog out because they don’t want to lose them, they are responsible owners. The Government should punish irresponsible breeders.”
“Tell the prime minister from me he would never ever get my vote,” she added.
Lee O’Reilly, (42), is the owner of Ruby, a two-year-old Patterjack and an Akita and Labrador-cross.
He said the Government was discriminating against XL bullies by labelling them all as “vicious when they’re not”.
Mr O’Reilly said he would choose his dogs over his home and that he had spoiled Ruby since day one and loved her so much that she slept in bed with him every night.
“I think it’s wrong putting dogs to sleep, and there’s not a chance I would kill my dog for £200,” he said.
Angela Perry and her mum Sylvia Davenport agreed with Mr Reilly and said the ban was “unfair” because it tarred all XLs with the same brush regardless of their temperament.
They rescued their 14-year-old Beagle Flora, a former agility champ from Beagle Welfare, and said: “I would feel sad for my dog if she was suddenly forced to wear a muzzle every day. It would ruin Flora’s life because in her mind she would feel confused why that was suddenly happening.”
“It’s not the same but when we were told we had to wear masks during covid, how did we feel then? Awful and nervous,” she added.
Ms Davenport said that it was “heartbreaking” for people who lived in social housing to have to choose between their home and their dog and said it was an example of “vulnerable” people being “picked on”.
“Dogs mean everything to us; they are family members,” she added.
Lindsay Whilmore, (49), owner of Pupcups dog café in Congleton, said she agreed with the Government’s decision to end the breeding of the XL-type dog, but she said that dogs still here should be left to live out their days in peace.
“Having to destroy a dog you already own shouldn’t be allowed. That’s unfair because there’s lots of other breeds that can be just as temperamental.”
Mrs Whilmore joked that the only pooch banned from her canine café was her seven-year-old Jack Russell Ella, who “disdained” other dogs and much preferred people.
She said she had “no qualms” about continuing to welcome XLs into her café, if owners were obeying the rules.
Michael German lives in Mow Cop with his wife Carol and their six-year-old Chihuahua-cross collie Ruby. They agreed with Mrs Whilmore, that breeding from the dogs should be stopped but he thought it was the fault of the owners and not the dogs.
“Rough guys in gangs are using the dog as status symbols, bringing them up in the wrong way and making them nasty,” he said.
Mrs German said she hoped the ban would be overturned.
“Little dogs can also be nippy and nasty. It’s definitely not fair to target XL-bullies,” she said.
Many animal charities have also opposed the ban. Dr Samantha Gaines, dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “We have long campaigned against breed-specific legislation, which bans dogs simply due to the way they look. This has failed to effectively protect the public’s and animals’ welfare and we have seen countless dogs who have not shown aggression lose their lives.
“Our position around banning XL bullies is the same – we don’t believe this will effectively protect the public or animal welfare.”
The “Chronicle” also spoke to Sophie Coulthard, founder of Don’t Ban Me, Licence Me, which is committed to ending breed specific legislation.
The not-for-profit group is in the process of taking legal action against the Government in response to the ban.
She owns a six-month-old standard bully called Billy and had just taken delivery of a new muzzle for him.
Ms Coulthard described the “biggest impact” on Billy as the interruption to his training. She said that when the ban comes in, he will not be able to play his regular games because he will be muzzled.
Ms Coulthard said many people had contacted her on social media with screen shots of their dogs in private fields saying XLs will still need to be muzzled and on a lead in such locations.
“This defeats the purpose of going to one,” she said.
Back in Byley, Ms Cheadle said she knew many private field owners taking the “easy option” and banning the dogs.
However, she said she was pushing her insurers to ensure XLs got as much freedom as they could.
When asked if it would allow tenants who owned an XL bully to keep their pets in their homes and what guidance had been issued, a spokesperson for Dane Housing, responsible for much of the social housing in the area, said: “As yet we have not been issued with any guidance related to the XL bully ban.
“While Plus Dane will not be responsible for policing the ban, our customers will be expected, as they are with all other legislation, to comply with the law. Failure to do this could be deemed as a breach of tenancy.”