American XL bully dogs are a danger to communities and will be banned, Rishi Sunak has vowed, after a man was mauled to death.
Announcing the move, the prime minister said he “shared the nation’s horror” at such attacks and they could not be allowed to continue.
Mr Sunak was responding to the latest incident in which a man died after being savaged by two dogs outside a property in Stonnall, Staffordshire, on Thursday afternoon.
South Yorkshire Police reported four separate dog attacks on children in two days, including one where a 15-year-old was taken to hospital after being savaged by an XL bully in Sheffield.
Police in London are also hunting the owner of a grey pitbull-type dog that attacked a four-year-old boy on Monday.
But the Dog Control Coalition, which encompasses animal charities including the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club, said banning XL bully dogs will not stop attacks.
Any ban should be based on “robust evidence”, a spokeswoman for the coalition said – adding it was “deeply concerned” by the “lack of data behind this decision and its potential to prevent dog bites”.
She added: “The biggest priority for everyone involved is to protect the public – but banning the breed will sadly not stop these types of incidents recurring.
“For 32 years, the Dangerous Dogs Act has focused on banning types of dog and yet has coincided with an increase in dog bites, and the recent deaths show this approach isn’t working.”
The coalition is urging ministers to tackle the “root cause” by dealing with “unscrupulous breeders putting profit before welfare”, and “irresponsible owners”.
Sunak: ‘This cannot go on’
Earlier, in a video statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, the prime minister said: “The American XL bully dog is a danger to our communities, particularly our children.
“I share the nation’s horror at the recent videos we’ve all seen. Yesterday we saw another suspected XL bully dog attack, which has tragically led to a fatality.
“It is clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs, it’s a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on.
“While owners already have a responsibility to keep their dogs under control, I want to reassure people that we are urgently working on ways to stop these attacks and protect the public.
“Today I have tasked ministers to bring together police and experts, to firstly define the breed of dog behind these attacks, with the view to then outlawing it.
“It is not currently a breed defined in law, so this vital first step must happen fast.
“We will then ban the breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act and new laws will be in place by the end of the year.
“These dogs are dangerous, I want to reassure the public that we will take all necessary steps to keep people safe.”
‘Beasts cause misery in our communities’
Home Secretary Suella Braverman also posted to X, saying: “Today’s tragedy underlines the need to ban the American XL Bully.
“They are a threat to life and cause misery in our communities.
“We are taking action to ban them and, in the meantime, I expect police to use all available powers to protect the public from these beasts.”
Meanwhile, Downing Street denied the government had taken too long to ban American XL bully dogs.
Asked whether ministers had “dragged their heels” on outlawing the breed, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I wouldn’t accept that.
“Clearly this breed of dog isn’t defined in law so it’s right to take the time to consider the best way to put an end to these horrendous attacks that we’re seeing.”
But there is concern a move to prohibit the animal may not be practical due to the American XL bully not being recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club, which could mean any ban may inadvertently outlaw other kinds of dogs.
It has led to demands for an overhaul of the existing legislation, so it focuses “not on the breed but the deed”, or even for the entire law to be “sent to the knacker’s yard”.
‘A clear and present threat’
Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Tory former MP Baroness Fookes said: “I suggest that he should be more radical when looking at the Dangerous Dogs Act.
“It is time that that was sent to the knacker’s yard and a new system instituted altogether.
“I say this with some regret because I was the one who introduced it in the other place [the Commons] in the first place.”
At the same time, former police chief Lord Hogan-Howe called for a national amnesty to get dangerous dogs off the streets.
As head of the Merseyside force back in 2007, he had introduced such a measure following the death of five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson, who was mauled by a banned pitbull-type dog at her grandmother’s home in St Helens on New Year’s Day.
Campaign groups have welcomed the government’s planned ban.
In a joint statement, Bully Watch, the Campaign for Evidence Based Regulation of Dangerous Dogs (CEBRDD) and Protect Our Pets claimed the breed was a “a clear and present threat to public health”.
Lawrence Newport, of CEBRDD, said: “Retrievers retrieve, pointers point. Fighting dogs fight. We have found this to our great cost.
“The importing of the American bully, a highly inbred pitbull-type, led to skyrocketing deaths and attacks. This ban will finally allow the government and police to act, before another child or pet is ripped apart.”
Met Police chief calls for more legal protections as army on standby to replace firearms officers
The head of the Metropolitan Police has demanded increased legal protections for officers after a revolt by armed police left the army poised to fill in.
Soldiers are on standby for armed police after scores of Metropolitan Police officers stood down from firearms duties following a murder charge against one of their colleagues.
The force’s commissioner Sir Mark Rowley welcomed a review into the situation by Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
And in an open letter he told her to “let the police police”.
“It is essential that we have a system which commands the confidence of officers and the communities they serve,” he wrote.
“Of course, where wrongdoing takes place, the public expect us to be held to the highest standards.
“I have been clear on this in all areas of policing, and the use of force must be no exception.
“The system that judges officers’ actions should be rooted in integrity and decisions should be reached swiftly, competently and without fear or favour.
“A review is needed to address accountability mechanisms, including the policies and practices of the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), ideally with a focus on the threshold for investigating police use of force and involvement in pursuits.”
He added: “The review announced today is therefore a very welcome development.
“I have spoken publicly in recent weeks about the need to let the police police.
“Our commitment to delivering change in the Met is unflinching and we are making positive progress, but that progress is undermined by a system not set up to help officers succeed.”
More than 100 officers have reportedly handed in permits allowing them to carry weapons, prompting Scotland Yard to turn to the military for assistance.
The crisis has emerged after an unnamed officer was charged with murder over the shooting of unarmed Chris Kaba, 24, who was killed in September last year in Streatham Hill, south London.
The officer accused of his murder is named only as NX121 after a district judge granted an anonymity order.
Ms Braverman said: “We depend on our brave firearms officers to protect us from the most dangerous and violent in society.
“In the interest of public safety, they have to make split-second decisions under extraordinary pressures.
“They mustn’t fear ending up in the dock for carrying out their duties. Officers risking their lives to keep us safe have my full backing and I will do everything in my power to support them.
“That’s why I have launched a review to ensure they have the confidence to do their jobs while protecting us all.”
‘Let the police police’: Met commissioner’s letter to home secretary in full
Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has written and open letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, urging her to “let the police police”.
Below is the letter in full:
Dear Home Secretary,
I welcome your announcement earlier today that you will be launching a review into how police officers are held to account when force is used.
You will know from our previous discussions that it is an area that I believe is long overdue for reform to address a number of imbalances.
In the UK we proudly police by consent, embracing the principles of accountability, transparency and independent scrutiny. It is essential that we have a system which commands the confidence of officers and the communities they serve.
Of course, where wrongdoing takes place the public expect us to be held to the highest standards. I have been clear on this in all areas of policing, and the use of force must be no exception.
The system that judges officers’ actions should be rooted in integrity and decisions should be reached swiftly, competently and without fear or favour.
A review is needed to address accountability mechanisms, including the policies and practices of the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the Crown Prosecution Service, ideally with a focus on the threshold for investigating police use of force and involvement in pursuits.
The review announced today is therefore a very welcome development.
I have spoken publicly in recent weeks about the need to let the police police. Our commitment to delivering change in the Met is unflinching and we are making positive progress, but that progress is undermined by a system not set up to help officers succeed. I have identified pursuits and use of force as areas where we see the most glaring unfairness.
I make no comment on any ongoing matters that are sub judice but the issues raised in this letter go back further.
Accountability matters, but we should not have allowed ourselves to develop a system where police officers get investigated for safely pursuing suspects, just because the suspect acts recklessly and as a result injures themselves or someone else.
This is unfair on our officers and discourages them from chasing down criminals.
Armed officers know they need to justify their actions, especially when lethal force is used. They are extremely well trained and an intrinsic part of their training reinforces that shots can only be fired if absolutely necessary to save life.
Officers are individually responsible and accountable for their actions. Consequently, we have one of the safest models of armed policing in the world.
Will armed officer’s murder charge force change in how police shootings are reported?
Britain’s streets without the specialist firearms officers and armed response vehicles that are dotted around major cities will be more dangerous places.
The army is being called in as back-up to the officers withdrawing their service but they do not have the experience to deal with the split-second decisions that are made every day by the police.
As then head of specialist operations, Sir Mark Rowley was the man responsible for the expansion in the number of firearms officers in London.
It was designed to deal with the threat that emerged from the marauding firearms attacks in Mumbai in 2008 and Paris in 2015.
Thankfully, that threat has never materialised, although the officers were called in to deal with the terrorist knife attacks in Woolwich in 2013, London Bridge in 2017 and Fishmongers’ Hall in 2019.
However, the same officers deal with 4,000 incidents involving firearms or suspected firearms every year.
They discharge their weapons on fewer than two of those but when they do the results can have a devastating effect on the officers themselves and on community relations.
There have been a small number of controversial shootings, most notably that of Azelle Rodney in 2005 and Mark Duggan in 2011, that led to the London riots that summer.
In the case of Azelle Rodney, following an inquiry finding that his killing was “not justified”, PC Anthony Long was eventually charged with murder, nine years after the shooting, and acquitted at trial.
In Mark Duggan’s case, an inquest jury found that he was lawfully killed, three years after the shooting, and no officer faced charges.
The process of charging officers with murder or manslaughter is a fraught one, but in the case of Chris Kaba, it has proceeded more quickly than usual, as the Independent Office for Police Conduct collected body-worn footage, CCTV, witness statements and forensics before passing their file to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The CPS decided to charge the officer NX121, with murder, for shooting Mr Kaba through the windscreen of the Audi he was driving in Kirkstall Gardens, Streatham.
The vehicle was being followed, having been identified as used in a firearms incident the previous day, but Mr Kaba was unarmed.
The investigation and charge process took a little over a year but it has given rise to fears among firearms officers across the country that they are being judged for doing their jobs.
The details of the case cannot be discussed because of laws in Britain that mean the case against the officer could be prejudiced by reporting.
That is one of the things Sir Mark, now the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, would like to change but he would also like the CPS to strengthen the legal protection for officers who use force.
Offering his support to his officers, Sir Mark wrote to the Home Secretary on Sunday, voicing their concern “that even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given, they will face years of protracted legal proceedings”.
However, there is another dimension to the debate.
In the case of Mark Duggan, the issue that provoked the London riots, was the belief in Tottenham that a criminal of Duggan’s experience would not have pointed a firearm at an armed police officer – and that he had, in effect, been executed.
Policing in Britain is performed by consent, and the police in London, and elsewhere, continue to face a challenge in the narrative that arose in Tottenham.
They are trained to believe that criminals will attempt to shoot them, but the reality, some believe, is very different.
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