By Denise Bannerman
An increase in the number of large, XL-type Bully dogs in Stonehaven and incidents of dogs being out of control in Dunnottar Woods and Forest Drive Park have led Stonehaven residents to voice concerns about control and public safety.
This comes against a national backdrop of XL Bully dogs frequently appearing in media stories, having attacked owners and members of the public alike.
Community council member Denise Bannerman together with Julie Gray of the North of Scotland Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club agreed to look into this issue – and reported their findings at Tuesday’s meeting of Stonehaven and District Community Council.
New law in England and Wales
Whilst, currently, issues around unsociable and uncontrolled dogs are covered by the Control of Dogs (Scotland Act), in England and Wales legislation is due to be enacted which will ban this breed. Owners will be able to apply to have their dogs exempted from the ban if they agree to neuter, microchip and muzzle their dogs or to receive compensation if their dog is put to sleep.
DEFRA has produced a breed description to help identify these dogs, but it is so generalized (and mainly based on the height of the animal) that there is considerable risk of dogs being mistakenly identified as XL Bullies.
Situation in Scotland
Denise Bannerman said the Scottish government has not as yet taken the decision to ban the breed but has stated that a review of the situation will take place in the future (the date is not yet specified).
She said she was keen to emphasize that the vast majority of dogs are well behaved and their owners are responsible. However, should Scotland follow the path that England and Wales have taken then it would be wise to address the situation.
The Kennel Club offers a free Good Citizen Dog training scheme which covers responsible dog ownership and obedience training for pets. This could help people to protect their dogs and prevent unsociable behaviour.
If the government decides not to ban the breed, a ‘Positive Ownership’ event involving charities, animal welfare officers and other experts could be held at a local venue to offer advice and information to dog owners.