More than half a million people have signed a petition calling for the government to halt its planned ban on American XL bully dogs
Rishi Sunak promised to ban the dogs following a spate of widely publicised attacks by the breed
Animal welfare charities including RSPCA and Dogs Trust do not believe they should be banned
Watch: PM promises to ban 'dangerous' XL bully dogs by end of year
More than half a million people and some of the country's most influential animal welfare charities are campaigning to have the planned ban on XL bully dogs shelved.
Rishi Sunak said last week that the American XL bully dog breed will be banned in the UK by the end of the year, after a series of high profile attacks.
The prime minister made the pledge when it emerged a man died after being attacked by two dogs – suspected to be XL bully dogs – in Staffordshire last Thursday, and following a video of a separate incident that went viral when an 11-year-old girl suffered serious injuries in Birmingham.
But a petition to stop the ban has accrued more than 540,000 signatures in just five days, with the figure growing by the minute.
The petition, launched by father-of-two Glyn Saville, a bully dog owner from Oxfordshire, simply states: "Bad owners are to blame not the breed - don't ban the XL bully."
Man mauled to death by two dogs in Walsall named by police (Evening Standard)
Saville says: "I believe that the XL bully is a kind, beautiful-natured breed that loves children and people in general, and are very loyal and loving pets."
A spokesperson from the Dog Control Coalition - which is made up of RSPCA, Blue Cross, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Hope Rescue, Scottish SPCA, The Kennel Club and British Veterinary Association - told Yahoo News UK it did not believe a ban would solve the issue.
In a statement, the coalition said: “The recent incidents are deeply distressing and our thoughts are with all those involved and affected.
“The biggest priority for everyone involved is to protect the public - but banning the breed will sadly not stop these types of incidents recurring."
The coalition said that for 32 years, the Dangerous Dogs Act has focused on banning types of dog and yet has coincided with an increase in dog bites. It said the recent attacks show that the current approach isn’t working.
It added: "The UK Government must tackle the root issue by dealing with the unscrupulous breeders, who are putting profit before welfare, and the irresponsible owners whose dogs are dangerously out of control.
“The coalition urges the Prime Minister to work with them to fully understand the wide-reaching consequences of his decision to ban American bully XLs, which will have significant impacts on owners, the animal welfare sector, vets, law enforcement and the public."
It said it was also critical that any policy designed to protect public safety would be "based on robust evidence" and said the coalition was "deeply concerned about the lack of data behind this decision and its potential to prevent dog bites".
Bully breed is a catch-all term for a type of terrier. Some bully breeds actually feature the word “bull,” as in bulldog, bull mastiff and the pit bull. This refers to their common roots as guard dogs and fighters that were tough enough to take on a bull.
Why are XL Bullies being banned?
Currently, there are four breeds on the UK's banned dogs list, which are: Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.
Bully Watch, an organisation set up to monitor attacks by the breed, believes American bully XL and bully mix breeds have been behind 45% of attacks on humans and other dogs. However, it accepts its statistics may not be fully accurate, as someone who has been attacked by a smaller dog would probably be less likely to report it.
Some campaigners, including Tory former minister Sir John Hayes, called for the American Bully XL - which is closely related to the Pit Bull Terrier - to be added to the banned list earlier this year.
Following the publicity surrounding more recent attacks, Rishi Sunak declared last week he would introduce a ban on American XL bullies by Christmas.
How would a ban work?
Adding the bully XL to the banned list is the responsibility of Environment Secretary Therese Coffey’s department where it is believed there are concerns over the feasibility of the move.
The dog, which is developed from the American pit bull terrier, is not a recognised as a specific breed by the Kennel Club so it could be hard to define, and some fear a ban could inadvertently outlaw a range of other dogs.
What could be a penalty for owning an XL bully dog?
If you are found to own a banned dog in the UK you can get an unlimited fine, be sent to prison for up to six months, or both.