top of page
  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

XL Bully Dog Ban investigation in the next UTV ‘UP CLOSE’

Norah Smith CEO of the USPCA with UTV's Michelle Napier

Norah Smith CEO of the USPCA with UTV's Michelle Napier


“The evidence says it’s not working... this is not the answer for dangerous dogs in Northern Ireland” – Nora Smith (USPCA)


The next episode of UTV’s award winning current affairs programme ‘Up Close’ investigates the controversy surrounding the ownership of American XL Bully dogs, the recent law introduced in England, Wales and soon in Scotland that bans breeding and requires all owners to have an exemption certificate, and whether Northern Ireland should follow suit with a similar law here.


Entitled ‘A Breed Apart’, airing on Thursday 8th February at 10.45pm, and presented by UTV’s Michelle Napier, the programme will examine how the dogs, which originated in the US in the 1980s, and are a cross between an American Pit Bull and American Staffordshire Bull terrier, ended up on the wrong side of the law, how their owners are dealing with the new rules, and what animal charities think is the way forward for Northern Ireland.



The programme starts however, with the victim of an XL Bully attack telling his story. 


Steven Cull

Steven Cull


Steven Cull was walking the dog as a favour for a friend when it started to attack him, jumping at his throat, and then his legs. What followed was a sustained attack resulting in Steven suffering severe blood loss, losing an arm and spending weeks in hospital recovering from other serious flesh injuries. 


He says, “This thing was like a shark on legs – it was going so fast... I thought I’m going to die here on a Monday morning taking a dog for a walk.”



As a result of similar attacks and fatalities in England and Wales, the government took action and introduced a law for England and Wales banning owners from breeding, selling on, giving away or abandoning their dogs.


It’s now illegal to own one without an exemption certificate and the dog must be muzzled and kept on a lead when out in public. Scotland quickly followed suit and announced it will  introduce the same legislation, despite it previously having laws that focused on ‘deed, not breed.’ 


However, the law does not apply to Northern Ireland as it is a devolved matter, and it is now for the new DAERA Minister to make a decision on what to do in Northern Ireland.



Norah Smith CEO of the USPCA

Norah Smith CEO of the USPCA


Nora Smith, CEO of the USPCA, is critical of the new law and does not want to see a matching ban here. She says, “The biggest problem with the legislation is that the focus is on the dog rather than the owner.” 


She points to existing NI legislation, the Dangerous Dogs Act, which has been in place here for 30 years, but has been largely ineffectual, pointing out, “There are sufficient laws to cover it – but there is not enough enforcement.”



Connie Gilmore, Manager of the Assisi Animal Sanctuary

Connie Gilmore, Manager of the Assisi Animal Sanctuary


Connie Gilmore, Manager of the Assisi Animal Sanctuary says that we should be prepared for the likelihood that the new law will come into effect here.  She says, “There is always a chance we’ll become a dumping ground – I hope that the owners will look after them and train them.”


The second part of the programme shines a light on the black market trade for these much sought after dogs and other breeds. 


Alliance spokesperson for Animal Welfare, Patrick Brown tells Michelle, “We have a massive problem with unscrupulous, unethical, and in indeed in many cases, illegal breeders  - backyard breeders who are churning out pups for profit, who have no regard for the homes that those dogs are going into.”



Alliance spokesperson for Animal Welfare, Patrick Brown

Alliance spokesperson for Animal Welfare, Patrick Brown


Daniel Friar from Bristol tells Michelle he is contemplating a move to Northern Ireland as his dog falls under the criteria for the ban. He feels very strongly that muzzling and keeping her on a lead doesn’t allow her to exercise or play properly, and could lead to the very problems that are being legislated against. He says, “The perception is that they are aggressive devil dogs, that are trained to kill, that will snap at any moment, and that’s not actually the case.”


Animal Welfare Expert Tara Cunningham, feels that Northern Ireland is in a good position as the legislation and the infrastructure is already in place here to licence dogs and breeders. Nora Smith points out that investment is required to provide the resources to enforce these laws.



And Connie from Assisi has the last word, “I think you should have to do a test to own a dog – that is a theory test and a practical test - the people who are breeding from these dogs shouldn’t be allowed them, they are not fit to be owners.”


Alison Fleming who produced and directed the programme said: “We wanted to dig deeper into the controversial legislation. The stigma now attached to these dogs threw up its own challenges while making the programme with local owners not wanting to take part.”


UTV Reporter Michelle Napier

UTV Reporter Michelle Napier


Michelle said, “Our contributors helped us highlight the issues arising from this legislation.  The main messages from everyone we spoke to was that owners and breeders have to be responsible and accountable, and that our laws here need to be better enforced.”


Up Close’ airs Thursday night at 10.45pm on UTV. You can catch up afterwards on ITVX. Go to Categories, then News, pick UTV as your region and scroll across to the programme.



Comments


bottom of page