Like many other veterinary practices UK-wide, this week we received an email from a member of the public asking us to state our position on the government’s XL Bully ban, specifically whether we would euthanise a healthy non-aggressive XL Bully if the owner could not afford to comply with the new legislation. As these emails are all identically or very similarly worded, there is presumably a larger group or organisation behind this.
Firstly, our position is that we are going to HELP our clients deal with the new legislation in every way that we can. We will SUPPORT our clients in their decision making, whatever the outcome may be. We shall NOT JUDGE our clients’ decisions, and we shall not make this situation any more difficult and tragic for them than it already is by refusing euthanasia if that is their decision.
Secondly, attempts to vilify vets who are willing to euthanise XL Bullies in this situation are incredibly damaging – to the vets, to the practices, to the clients, and to the dogs. There seems to be a belief that if all vets refuse to euthanise XL Bullies, that the law will go away and that the dogs in question will happily live on. That could not be further from the reality.
Consider why some people will have to make a decision to euthanise their dogs:
- struggling to afford initial exemption certificate and neutering fees
- struggling to afford ongoing fees for hiring exercise yards/fields (if those exist in their area) for their dogs to be able to exercise freely
- having to keep the dog on the lead for the rest of its life – how many of your own dogs would be happy permanently on the lead (and muzzled) when on walks, especially large dogs? Never being able to run, never being able to interact with others, never being able to explore freely – how do you think that will impact the dog’s quality of life and general behaviour?
- some landlords and housing associations are refusing to allow tenants to keep XL Bullies even with exemption certificates and following all the rules – people are having to choose between keeping their dog and housing their families
So what happens to these dogs if vets refuse to euthanise?
- they are dumped on the streets – they will still be euthanised but it may not be in a gentle vet-led euthanasia environment.
- desperate people may find themselves forced into other ways to end the dog’s life, which are unlikely to be humane or painless
- they are seized by police, kennelled and euthanised
And what are the consequences for the veterinary teams?
- moral injury, no doubt about it – none of us entered this field to be made to euthanise healthy animals
- negative impact on mental health, which is already in bad shape across the profession for many reasons
- personal and practice repercussions from individuals and groups seeking to vilify vets as “murderers” – we’ve all seen how nasty social media campaigns can get, and this has a massive impact on vets’ mental health, safety, reputations, and ability to continue working
There is no good outcome for the XL Bullies now, not in any scenario. Veterinary Teams and Veterinary Practices did NOT cause or promote any of this. Indeed, a number of our staff have owned or have rehomed the XL Bully type dogs so fully understand that they can be fabulous pets.
So PLEASE, think about this before you start or join anti-vet campaigns. We are all doing the best we can in a horrible situation that is not of our doing. If you want to help, then share this information. Donate to charities or rescues trying to obtain exemptions for XL Bullies in their care. Donate to people in your community who might struggle to afford to comply with the new rules. Write to your local MP about your disagreement with the legislation.
For further information you can visit the Government website using the following links:
Prepare for the ban on XL Bully dogs – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Ban on XL Bully Dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 – veterinary guidance relating to neutering and euthanasia of these dogs. (defra.gov.uk)