Man, 40, becomes first person in UK to be prosecuted for owning unregistered XL Bully under new laws

2 April 2024, 16:13 | Updated: 2 April 2024, 16:43

The dog's owner had warned officers that the XL Bully-type mutt would attack anyone who went near it, which led police to get a warrant for the address and seize the dog.
The dog's owner had warned officers that the XL Bully-type mutt would attack anyone who went near it, which led police to get a warrant for the address and seize the dog. Picture: Facebook: Patrick Mckeown
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

A 40-year-old man has become the first person in the UK to be prosecuted for owning an unregistered XL Bully after he told officers his pet "would attack anyone who approached it".

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Officers came across Sully by chance when visiting Patrick McKeown for a different matter.

The dog's owner had warned officers that the XL Bully-type dog would attack anyone who went near it, which led police to get a warrant and seize the animal.

McKeown admitted to one count of possessing or having a fighting dog, contrary to the Dangerous Dogs Act.

He has been given a one-year community order, requiring him to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.

McKeown said: "Sully was an amazing dog, he never did anything wrong, never bit another dog."
McKeown said: "Sully was an amazing dog, he never did anything wrong, never bit another dog.". Picture: Facebook: Patrick Mckeown

The former builder was also ordered to pay £85 costs and a £114 surcharge.

Read more: Armed police shoot dead XL bully after it mauled four people in rampage in London street

Read more: Shocking footage shows XL Bully mauling boy in Blackburn as man arrested after victim's family threatened after attack

Speaking to MailOnline, McKeown said: "Sully was an amazing dog, he never did anything wrong, never bit another dog. He was great with kids, he just looked a bit scary.

"I'd applied for an exemption certificate but because of the big backlog of cases I haven't yet received one.

"Sully was insured - despite what was said in court - and I'd booked him in to be neutered but the procedure hadn't yet been carried out.

"The law is the law but it's a strange crime. The authorities put Sully to sleep two weeks ago. He was three-years-old and I'd had him for two of those years."

Sangita and dog behavioural expert discuss current laws against dangerous dogs

The force lead for responding to dangerous dogs, Chief Inspector Simon Starns said: "This was one of the first cases of its type to be prosecuted in Sussex.

"It demonstrates to the public that owners have a responsibility to ensure that they comply with the new laws which are now in force.

"We continue to work closely with partners to ensure dogs are kept safe through responsible ownership and to reduce the risk to the public.

"We continue to ask all dog owners to comply with government guidance on the ownership of the XL Bully breed of dog.

It was reported that the dog was also seen loose in the back yard of the property.
It was reported that the dog was also seen loose in the back yard of the property. Picture: Facebook: Patrick Mckeown

"This includes ensuring that all XL Bully breed dogs are muzzled and kept on a lead held by someone aged over 16 when in public places."

Dog attacks have increased by a fifth in one year, it was revealed last month, with officers recording more than 80 incidents in a day at one point.

This prosecution comes after a number of recent attacks, including a three-year-old child from Doncaster who was bitten in the face by the family pet after attempting to climb the dog.

In addition, a chihuahua was killed by two XL-bully-type dogs in Glasgow, with its owner injured.

There have been fears that as many as 10,000 XL Bullies could still be unregistered after the ban kicked in.

He has been given a one-year community order, requiring the 40-year-old to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.
He has been given a one-year community order, requiring the 40-year-old to complete 100 hours of unpaid work. Picture: Facebook: Patrick Mckeown

What counts as an XL bully?

  • Nose: Large, with well opened nostrils
  • Head: Large, heavy and broad; prominent wrinkles on face, blocky muzzle
  • Neck: Heavy, muscular, slightly arched, tapering from the shoulders to the base of the skull
  • Teeth: Level or scissor bite
  • Body: Broad with a deep chest and well sprung ribs
  • Height: From 20in at the withers (the ridge between the shoulder blades) for males and 19in for females
  • Tail: Medium length and low set
  • Coat: Glossy, close, smooth, and single
Police will also be given more powers to take dogs away from owners if they show signs of 'low level' aggression.
Police will also be given more powers to take dogs away from owners if they show signs of 'low level' aggression. Picture: Alamy

What should you do if you have an XL Bully?

It has been a criminal offence to own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales without a Certificate of Exemption since 1 February.

Any existing XL Bullies will have to be muzzled in public and on the lead at all times. They will also have to be neutered.

Owners or anybody handling the dog in public must be over 16 years old and take out third-party public liability insurance to cover injuries the dog may cause to other people.

In some cases where dogs are known to have a history of aggression, they will have to be destroyed or sent to kennels.

Police will also be given more powers to take dogs away from owners if they show signs of 'low level' aggression.

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