Our New Report: Breed Specific Violence and the American Bully

Bully Watch has partnered with Protect Our Pets and the Campaign for Evidence-Based Regulation of Dangerous Dogs to launch a new report looking at the science and regulation of American Bully type dogs and their dog attack risk.

We find that the rise of dog fatalities can be explained directly by the introduction of the American Bully to the UK.

Despite representing less than 1% of UK dogs it has inflicted an astonishing 44% of all attacks this year, and 75% of all deaths in the last three years. These figures establish the American Bully breed as an outlier, being 270x more deadly than the rest of the dog population. At least 3 of the victims since 2022 have been experienced professional dog handlers, including Adam Watts who had decades of experience rehabilitating abused dogs.

We have scoured through the academic literature on dog aggression. We find that recent research finds a strong link between dog breed and aggressive behaviour with fighting type dogs having at least a 6x overrepresentation
among severe attacks and an even higher propensity to kill.

In addition to our own tracker, we present our FOI data from local police forces across the country. The Metropolitan Police has seen the American Bully grow from an insignificant proportion of dogs seized to the most commonly seized dog in 2023. This was also true for South Yorkshire police, Gwent Police, Cleveland, Greater Manchester, and Lincolnshire Police forces.

Recent high quality academic studies supports the notion that different dog breeds have distinct behavioral traits, including varying levels of aggression, which are genetically heritable; studies indicate that breeds like pit bulls, specifically bred for fighting, are more prone to aggressive behavior.

Scientific consensus and multiple peer-reviewed studies indicate that breed is linked to the severity of injuries caused by dog bites. From 2018 to 2021, 17 peer-reviewed scientific papers based on hospital data were identified which all showed that pit bull-type dogs were responsible for the most dog bites requiring hospitalisation and resulted in significant injuries. Despite making up only 6% of the U.S. dog population, pit bulls are involved in about 50% of attacks that result in hospitalization, with their bites causing more extensive and complex damage.

Studies show that breed-specific legislation (BSL) effectively reduces severe dog attacks and hospitalizations. The introduction of BSL in Catalonia and Manitoba, Canada, led to significant reductions in hospitalizations due to dog bites. The repeal of BSL in the Netherlands led to public support for its reinstatement. Multiple jurisdictions, including 550 in the U.S. and 32 countries, have adopted BSL to mitigate risks associated with certain breeds.

The government is urged to quickly address the risks of the American Bully breed through two main options:

  1. Use the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to add the American Bully to the list of banned dogs, enabling immediate enforcement measures like seizure and muzzling.
  2. Update guidance to categorize the American Bully as a “pit bull-type,” aligning with its recognized characteristics and parentage.

Both actions would restore the Dangerous Dogs Act’s original intent and mitigate risks to pets and children. Once that is complete, we urge the Government to enact longer term reform including:

  1. Consolidate Legislation: Merge existing dog control laws like the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to simplify enforcement and clarify owner responsibilities.
  2. Centralized Database: Establish a database to collect data on dog bite incidents, including breed, to inform public safety measures and research.
  3. Tougher Penalties: Increase penalties for irresponsible dog owners and criminalize fatal dog-on-dog attacks.
  4. Regulate Breeders: Enforce stricter regulations on dog breeders, particularly those operating illegally or unethically.
  5. Mandatory Insurance: Require all dog owners to have health and third-party insurance, incentivizing proper training and responsibility.

For further information about our report please contact contact@bullywatch.link

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