An animal shelter says it has been inundated with requests to rehome XL Bully dogs, with some owners saying they’ll put their pets down if they can’t get help.
Large Breed Dog Rescue, based in Greenhithe, is urging people “not to panic” after receiving an influx in the number of calls.
Jo Woods has been volunteering for the charity for the last decade and says it is the worst she’s seen, with around 15 requests a week to rehome XL Bully dogs.
Founded in 2004, it rescues and rehomes large and giant breed dogs – many of which have been abused, mistreated or had no training.
“You have all these people who bought the wrong type of dog during Covid,” Jo said.
“They haven’t trained them and are now finding that they have a rambunctious teenage dog in their house that needs specific skills to manage it.
“Now the rescue world is being flooded with these dogs.”
The American XL Bully is set to be banned by the end of the year following a series of attacks – including a man being killed in Staffordshire last week.
Owners of the dog will not see their pets culled but will likely face new restrictions – including a requirement to have the dogs neutered and muzzled and on a lead when in public.
They will also need to be insured.
Before the law can come come in though, it needs to be recognised as a specific breed in the UK – something police, vets and other experts are currently working to define.
The American Bully Kennel Club defines it as a crossbreed of the American Pit Bull Terrier, Olde English Bulldogge, English Bulldog and the American Bulldog.
Jo says Cane Corso and XL Bullies are the breeds they receive the most calls and emails about daily.
The charity has a strict non-destruct policy and will never euthanise unless advised by a vet due to ill health.
“We are being offered on average 15 XL Bullies a week,” she explained.
“Generally they will contact us and say ‘well I’m going to put it down if you can’t take it’.
“We physically haven’t got the space to take on a dog that may take us months to rehome, or if you get a biter – nobody is going to want to take that on easily.
“It’s a bit like the hospital bed blocking.”
Despite being based in Kent, they will also take in pooches from across England, Scotland and Wales.
The charity runs on donations only, sharing kennels with South East Dog Rescue in Greenhithe and New Hope Animal Rescue in Herne Bay, but is looking for a permanent place to settle down.
“We are a small rescue and are now full,” Jo said.
“Over the last week, I have turned down 25 dogs and that’s just me.
“My coordinator also gets contacted by specific rescues as well. It’s just nuts.”
The charity also wants to reassure those who own an XL Bully, with their main message being “do not panic”.
Jo added: “The new legislation will only affect the people who are law-abiding.
“It’s not going to affect the backyard breeders who won’t even put a chip in their dogs.
“I think many will still go under the radar.”
Many canine trainers and behaviourists across the county are now offering free muzzle training as a result of the ban.
One of those is Dog Daddy Behaviour Training and Walking, which is run by Steven Fraser from Sheerness.
“Muzzle conditioning takes time and should be done slowly – so that the dog accepts the restriction around its mouth area,” he explained.
“Most if not all dogs will try to remove anything that restricts their main body part which is the nose and mouth.
“To avoid dogs fighting to get muzzles off, it helps to create positive associations to the muzzle.”
‘One would like to think we would have moved on as a society when it comes to dogs and breeds. But here we are going backwards.’
He added: “These can be totally alien devices for a dog.
“Imagine if you had to walk around with your arms tied around your back every single day while out in public.
“No doubt it would feel very restrictive. So we want to change the dog's perception of having some restrictions.
“Of course we are going through tough times financially and I see it only reasonable to try and offer some of my skills to those in need at a very difficult and stressful time.
“One would like to think we would have moved on as a society when it comes to dogs and breeds.
“But here we are going backwards.”