PM vows to ban American Bully XLs – but what about the dogs caught in the crossfire?

Rishi Sunak has said that he will ban American Bully XL dogs by the end of the year, as soon as the breed is defined – but what about the dogs who don’t quite fit this definition?

The Prime Minister’s decision to ban the breed comes after a man was killed by two dogs, believed to American Bully XLs, in Staffordshire, and an 11-year-old girl was attacked by the dog in Birmingham.

Sunak has since described the dogs as a “danger to our communities” whilst Home Secretary Suella Braverman has called them a “threat to life”.

The American Bully XL is a cross between the American pit bull and the American Staffordshire terrier – they can weigh more than 60kg.

But some dogs will be caught in the crossfire of this ban – the ones who aren’t defined as American Bully XL dogs, but could easily be mistaken for one.

Kelly and Jake Mattison, based in Manchester, have a dog called Lyla. She is a mixed American staff, boxer, and Presa Canario with a similar appearance to the dogs currently being presented by headlines as “killing machines”.

When she was a puppy, Lyla had her ears cropped and was found by police “bleeding, barely breathing, and semi-comatose”, according to Kelly. The practice of ear cropping is illegal in England, and the RSPCA describes it as “extremely traumatic for the puppy and can cause permanent damage”.

American Bully dogs are often subject to ear cropping which is why Lyla is often mistaken as the breed.

Despite their similarity, Jake, who has been a dog owner his whole life, said: “Lyla is easily the most balanced and sweet-natured dog I’ve ever had.”

Lyla is a mixed American staff, boxer and Presa Canario, although she is often mistaken for an American Bully

The news surrounding the ban on the American Bully XLs has “massively impacted” the Mattisons’ approach to walking Lyla. Jake said that he would consider changing their walking routes and letting Lyla off the lead far less as a result of the media storm.

Jake has noticed how small dog owners panic and pick their pet up when they see Lyla – and he doesn’t blame them when headlines present her as a “devil dog”.

Kelly has even been on Amazon to look for a harness that says friendly on it to allow Lyla to go on walks without being stigmatised.

“Don’t be worried based on how the dog actually looks,” says Jake. “Concentrate on the behaviour more.”

Kelly adds: “And ask. If you do have fears about the breed then ask questions. People who see Lyla at first judge her – but when they find out her story, they change their mindset.”

Lyla with her ‘brother’ Paulie

Lyla’s owners do not think that a ban on American Bully XL is the right response to the recent attacks. The couple told Mancunian Matters that the ban would provide them with a “legitimate reason to move to France”.

“The problem is really caused by hugely irresponsible ownership,” said Jake. “The owners are big children in men’s bodies who aren’t teaching the dogs the difference between a rope in the garden and a member of the public.”

The Mattisons believe that the solution to the attacks, isn’t a ban on the breed, but rather “responsible dog ownership”.

Despite both having full-time jobs, the couple take Lyla on long walks and provide her with mental stimulation with breed-specific activities including controlled tugging.

Jake said that this loving attitude is what makes Lyla a “couch potato” who is instinctively gentle with children.

Lyla’s owners believe in responsible dog ownership, rather than a ban.

Lyla’s owners believe that the government should not focus on the dog breed itself but on the people holding the lead.

The Mattisons’ message for Sunak and Braverman? Jake says: “Listen to the experts and the people that deal with animal welfare day in and day out.

“Don’t try and think what the electorate will want you to do or what will win you the most votes. Talk to the experts.

“In between all the ignorance is dogs who have become the victims of it all. The dogs will be the ones that get put down.”

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