In this week’s ManxSPCA column, general manager Juana Warburton discusses the controversial XL bully breed and introduces a dog in desperate need of a new home...

XL bullies are not headline news anymore, now that they are a banned breed (type) under the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), but issues linked to American bulldogs have not gone away.

There is now a demand for, so called, ‘exotic’ bullies – smaller versions of the breed that are labelled ‘nano’, ‘micro’ or ‘pocket’.

These dogs fall well under the height guidelines for XLs of 51cm at the withers for an adult male, and 48cm for an adult female. Exotic bullies can sell for up to £3,000 each, which makes the market for them very lucrative.

Unscrupulous breeders are cashing in and inbreeding as much as possible to guarantee extreme features.

These puppies will almost certainly have health issues, and many will have temperament ones too. Rescue centres in England were inundated with XL bullies before the ban came into effect at the end of last year.

Given it is now illegal for them to rehome these dogs, they have had to make the difficult decision to have many of the XLs put to sleep, and those still alive face almost certain euthanasia. Back to the legislation…in England and Wales it is now an offence to own or possess an XL bully dog unless you have a valid certificate of exemption.

It is also an offence to sell such a dog, abandon one (or allow it to stray), give one away or breed from one; and an exempted dog must not be in a public area without a lead and muzzle.

They must also be neutered, microchipped, have third party liability insurance, and be under the control of an adult.

It is estimated that approximately 35,000 XL bullies were issued with exemption certificates, but that tens of thousands of dogs are still unregistered.

Enforcing the law is proving to be problematic. The Isle of Man regulates the ownership of so-called banned breeds through the Wild Animals (Restriction on Importation, etc.) Act (1980).

This Act lists animals that require an import license before they can be brought to the Island – animals that could be potentially dangerous to the public, be an ecological risk if they escaped, or whose captivity presents a welfare concern. The American XL bully now joins pit bull terrier types, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Braziliero as domestic dogs on the list.

It is, therefore, not illegal to own such a dog on the Isle of Man, but a license must be obtained from the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture before one can be imported. Another effect of the ban is that dogs that resemble XL bullies are proving more difficult to rehome, perhaps because some potential owners don’t want to be associated with the stigma attached to XLs, or they don’t want to have to constantly assure people that their dog is not a banned breed. We very much hope that this stigma does not affect gorgeous Zelda, a Staffie-cross who came to us recently because her owner couldn’t keep her in rented accommodation.

She’s six years old, and she’s clearly been an adored family pet. She has lovely manners, knows basic commands, and she walks beautifully on the lead. She was, however, attacked by another dog at some point in her past, and so she is very wary when she meets unknown dogs.

The kennels team have been gradually introducing her to fellow kennels residents to show her that she can have fun with other dogs and she doesn’t need to be afraid of them. As well as strange dogs, Zelda is also wary of new situations, but she is not an inherently shy dog who lacks in confidence – she just needs to take things at her pace.

She’s super curious, playful and energetic, and very affectionate with her human friends.

She just needs a new family to love.