Bully Watch emerged from a deep curiosity—why did the media attribute so many attacks and fatalities to one particular type of dog? A type of dog, it seemed, no one could clearly define, yet had become so prevalent.
Size Over Substance: The Breeding Crisis
We first looked at the owners. We engaged with American Bully communities online. The findings were deeply concerning. A culture of toxicity pervaded American Bully ownership and breeding. Disturbingly, breeding was seemingly the focal point in these communities. Every other post seemed to be an advertisement for dogs. New members weren’t just interested in owning American Bullies; they also wanted to breed them.
Instead of prioritizing health and temperament, the emphasis was disproportionately on size. Breeders sought to produce even larger dogs, advertising studs for their power, size, and “monstrous” strength. Features like the Merle color pattern, now associated with health issues, were intentionally bred to offer a unique selling point. Alarmingly, dogs as young as one year old were being used as studs, and female dogs were being bred in their very first season.
So-called “kennels,” essentially full-time backyard breeders with professional logos, exacerbated the issue. They marketed American Bullies based on their size and strength. New litters were being marketed the same way you market promotional fights. Alarmingly, some of the most “popular” breeders, with tens of thousands of Instagram followers, had no prior breeding experience. One such breeder started his “kennel” when he was 14-years-old. Adding fuel to the fire, these breeders often utilize co-ownership models, turning the already problematic breeding scene into something resembling a multi-level marketing scheme.
The toxic culture of Bully kennels can be best summarized by what’s become the gold standard of American Bully marketing: the classic shot featuring an XL Bully in sharp focus at the forefront, while an owner — or often an attractive woman or professional model — struggles to hold back the powerful animal, blurred in the background. More nefariously, one account with 100k followers even put dogs in traditional dog fighting poses complete with a scratch corner.
The puppy phase drew new people in, but no one talked about the challenges that followed. Many first-time buyers, like those living in small apartments or single mothers with children, should never in a million years purchase a Bully XL. The solution often recommended was prong or shock collars to control these animals. While crate training is a legitimate training method when used responsibly, within this community, it’s often suggested as a way to confine dogs for extended periods of time. Some owners even install outdoor kennels in their backyards. The troubling part is not just that these practices are suggested, but that they are often encouraged as a way to manage dogs that are left alone for most of the day.
The most shocking revelation of our initial investigation was the number of American Bullies being rehomed. As these dogs reach around one year of age and become more boisterous, families increasingly rehome them due to concerns about keeping them around small children. The strain this places on rescue organizations is overwhelming, a fact that was confirmed in subsequent months.
In the midst of all this chaos, the biggest victim is the American Bully itself. From its very inception, the American Bully has been commodified, reduced to an accessory rather than appreciated as a living being with needs and feelings. The dog serves as a prop in social media posts, a status symbol, and ultimately, a means to make money for those who exploit it.
Accountability and Enforcement: The Blame Game
A debate now rages over whether the fault lies with bad dogs or bad owners. Ironically, the same people who contributed to this crisis—backyard breeders and uninformed owners—are now circulating petitions blaming “bad owners” for the problems. Some within the community do show self-awareness, admitting that the breed’s enthusiasts need to take responsibility. Others double down, blame only the owners, and want to continue profiting from the unrestricted sale of the breed.
This brings us to a pressing question: if the problem lies with bad owners, what is the appropriate response? Police forces have recently come under fire for their attempts to seize American Bullies deemed out of control. A case in point is Coventry, where West Midlands police managed to restrain a Bully by placing it in a bin, only to be met with scathing public criticism. The same individuals tweeting for stronger regulations over outright bans are the same ones who crucified them.
While there are no quick fixes or easy solutions, one thing remains abundantly clear: much of the chaos is self-inflicted. The American Bully community brought this upon themselves.