XL bully ban: A balancing act for responsible owners

Following the introduction of the XL bully ban on February 1, owners have had to apply for an exemption in order to keep them and are required to keep their dogs muzzled and on a one-metre lead when out in public.

As a result, Hampton resident Dannii Johnson is looking to rent some land so she can walk her one-year-old dog Max freely. 

Johnson, a Children’s Care Home Manager, posted on local social media groups the same day about her search, saying: “We’re trying to ensure our happy one-year-old dog can maintain his high energy and healthy exercise routine responsibly.”  

The government announced the XL bully ban following a concerning rise in fatal dog attacks involving the XL Bully breed type.

Just this weekend a woman in Essex was killed in an attack by dogs suspected to be XL bullys. Esther Martin, 68, died whilst visiting her 11-year-old grandson. Police said they were waiting for the breed to be confirmed by experts.

Johnson and her partner Dal, said they chose Max because of his friendly temperament. “We didn’t choose him because of his breed.” Until now Max had also been an assistance dog for Dal.

Johnson, who uses the tag line Nature V Nurture on Tik Tok, said: “There is nothing is his behaviour that warrants the restrictions required. He’s always wagging his tail. He loves everybody and everything.” 

The 31-year-old wants to be able to “let him run and effectively be a dog”.  She added that it’s a challenge to do under the requirements of the ban.

Dannii Johnson & Max

The couple would ideally like to find some woodland, shrub or marshland which can provide a stimulating, sanctuary-like environment for Max.  

They have tried walking him in some of the fields that are available to book privately but it hasn’t always been a good experience. 

A lady who owned a horse stable next door said she was very surprised to see someone walking an XL bully down the street.  

Johnson asked what she meant, she said: “Because of what you see in the media.” Visibly upset, Johnson told Kingston Courier: “We book these places to avoid those comments. To avoid feeling like we shouldn’t be walking our dog.” 

Johnson says she also wants to rent some land because of the discrimination her and her partner are experiencing as a couple.  

“I’m white. He’s black. He’s been stopped multiple times asking if he’s got the dog for his image. They don’t ask me that. They ask if I can handle the dog. It’s quite bad.  I’ve come back from walking Max crying.” 

Max is a service dog to Dal who is registered as disabled. He needs help occasionally with fetching and retrieving.  

This means he used to take Max into shops with him at times but Max will no longer be able to assist him in this way because he has to wear a muzzle. 

In the UK, there is no assistance dog register, so it’s not possible to register him as a service dog. “He’s been stopped many times despite us following the current guidance around the use of a service dog.” 

He was stopped in a supermarket in October and asked why he’s got an XL bully as customers were worried.  

I posted a video on TikTok about it being discrimination and it kind of went viral. I also complained to the store.” 

Johnson and her partner are looking for at least two acres within an hour’s drive that is secure and not near livestock.  She’d love to add sand because, she says:  “Max loves sand.  

“We did a whole thing on 30th December [before the muzzle was essential in public] so he could enjoy his last day of freedom and run around on the beach, play fetch and pick up sticks. 

“It breaks my heart he can’t do those things anymore.” 

The couple are initially keen to rent the land for sole use and if possible, to eventually make it available for other responsible dog owners, particularly XL bully owners.  

If that happened, the land would be accessible on a no-contact basis to give people the option to walk their dog without being judged. 

Since December 31, it is illegal to breed, sell, advertise, gift, exchange, abandon or let XL bully dogs stray. All XL bully dogs must also be kept on a lead and muzzled when in public. From February 1 all XL bully dogs must be registered. 

News reporter & Health editor | + posts

Social infrastructure strategic planner, training for the NCTJ News Journalism qualification and publishing local news stories via the Kingston Courier.

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