A Brecon resident is 'heartbroken' over the UK Government's decision to ban American bully XL dogs, and has instead said that 'backstreet breeders' are the ones to blame.
It comes after a spate of dog attacks around the UK. The decision made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ban the breed has been met with support, but there are many who are not in favour of the ban, due to factors such as how the breed will be defined. Since the ban has been announced, the UK's chief veterinary officer has said that the XL dogs will not be culled.
Becky Baksh has three children, and is part of the military community. She has three dogs, one an English Spaniel, one a cockapoo and her new 7-month-old XL bully, called Scout. "As a young couple, we had an English bull terrier and were familiar with the bull dog breed. Our close friend in Berkshire was the breeder. We knew him, and his family, and was a well-respected individual within the community. He worked hard to create the perfect upbringing for his dogs and for the new litter that had arrived."
She believes that getting the XL dog through a reputable breeder is vital, and that claim is backed up by The Dog Control Coalition, who have said that the government should tackle "unscrupulous breeders, who are putting profit before welfare, and the irresponsible owners whose dogs are dangerously out of control."
Becky says, "I've never had a bad experience with an XL bully. We have only ever been surrounded by responsible owners and for the odd few we have seen since moving to Brecon they've been pretty calm and docile. We are heartbroken that the government has taken these actions, and blanket punishment is being put in place for the whole breed because of backstreet breeders selling to anyone and everyone.
"Irresponsible owners and breeders have created monsters, bitches being used as breeding machines with no proper veterinary input. Crossbreeding to a whole new level to create bigger formations on the bulldog. Dogs have different developmental growth periods. With little thought being put into their training, socialising and diet. I've seen and heard about so many owners feeding the XL's muscle-building powders, juicers, etc., the equivalent of steroids, it's cruel. Changing the way a dog looks, clipping ears and tails, for what reason? Other than to make the dog look meaner. It is absolutely pointless and cruel."
Bringing an XL into her home wasn't a concern, and her children love Scout. "My XL is a gentle giant. He is learning from his brothers - our other dogs - very well and developing his training every day. He's a happy chappy! He loves playing with the kids and is quite nosey. He likes to see what they are up to."
When the ban decision was being made, Becky faced anxiety about what might happen to Scout. "I am so relieved that there won't be a cull, my pup doesn't deserve that, my children don't deserve that, the heartbreak of having to hand over my 7-month-old gentle giant to die?! Awful.
"We are prepared to jump through whatever hoops we have to prove that Scout is friendly, well socialised, and of course, we as owners are in full control of him."
These hoops include having your dog neutered, putting a muzzle on the dog when out in public, and to also be on a lead. The dog will also need to be insured. This help is being offered by Brecon resident Skye Day, who has worked with dogs for the majority of her life after her mother owned a dog training business.
"I would always go to sessions with my mum as I found something rewarding in dog training." 19-year-old Skye says. "As I got older I quickly realised it was a career path I wanted to take as my mum was an inspiration to me. Last year I opened my business Loki's for Dogs of Mischief doing 1-to-1 training with various breeds and behaviours and then knew for sure this was what I wanted to do. Dog training is my part-time job currently as I'm trying to build a positive reputation for myself so I can have enough clients to make it my full-time career."
Since hearing about the ban, Skye wants to offer training for responsible owners like Becky. "I'm offering completely free 1-to-1 dog training sessions for XL bullies whether this is pulling on a lead or challenging behaviours. To each of my XL bully owner clients, I will also be offering muzzle training.
"I'm appalled and disgusted at the new law that has been put in place. There is only one reason why a dog can end up aggressive and that's not the dog's fault it is the other end of the lead we need to be blaming. Any size or breed can be classed as a dangerous dog. Sadly, the bad owners have ruined it for everyone. Which breed will they target next? This is to help prove they can be wonderful dogs with the right owner and training."
Skye, who owns a rescue greyhound and whippet, has advice for XL dog owners who may be concerned about how to train them. "My advice to bully owners is to spay and neuter your dogs to prove you don't have intentions to breed and muzzle train them as soon as possible. I wish for every XL bully owner to stay strong during this time. My experience with XL bullies has always been pleasant, and I believe that they are great family pets."
As for Becky, she has her own advice for owners. "XL dogs, like all breeds, have so many contributing factors to reactive behaviour. Are they hungry? Anxious? Not exercised? Giving a dog a good healthy diet helps their mood. Avoid cheap dog food, and getting good, well-nutritionally balanced food really does help. Exercise them well. Socialise them. Train them hard, and let them play harder."
She has also ensured that anyone who comes into contact with her dog has been educated on the do's and don'ts of the breed.
The UK's chief veterinary officer, Dr Christine Middlemiss, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there will be an 'amnesty' period following the ban. She said: "People that already have these dogs, and some of them will be well socialised, well managed, well trained, you will need to register and take certain actions. Your dog will need to be neutered. It will need to be muzzled when out in public and on a lead and insured.
“But if you comply with these actions, and that means we’ll know where these dogs are, which will be a massive benefit, then, yes, absolutely you will be able to keep your dog.”