The American XL Bully has been added to the list of banned breeds in England and Wales
The American XL Bully has been added to the list of banned breeds in England and Wales

MSs from across the political spectrum have called for more to be done to tackle dangerous dogs in addition to a forthcoming ban on the XL bully breed.

Hefin David MS urged the Welsh Government to go further after the UK Government’s decision to update the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

What is the Dangerous Dogs Act?

The 1991 Dangerous Dog Act is a set of laws that limits the public to what breed of dog they can and can’t own, as well as outlining their responsibilities as owners, in keeping control of potentially dangerous dogs.The list of prohibited dogs are:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro

In 2014, an amendment was made to the act which extended it to cover private property. Prior to this, the Act was only applicable to public spaces.

The punishment for owning any of the previously mentioned breeds varies from a £1,000 fine to six months’ imprisonment.

If any dog was to be the direct cause of loss of life and showed signs of being a ‘dangerous dog’ before the attack, the owner of such a dog could face up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

On deciding whether a dog was potentially dangerous or not prior to an attack, the court is asked to assess the temperament of the dog and also the owner’s ability to control such a dog.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, between 2000 and 2019, a total of 64 people in England and Wales lost their lives as a result of an attack by a dog.

He highlighted the tragic cases of ten-year-old Jack Lis and grandmother Shirley Patrick, from his Caerphilly constituency, who were killed by XL bully breeds.

The Labour backbencher said Gail Jones – Shirley Patrick’s daughter – has called for other potentially dangerous breeds to be banned.

Gail Jones at the launch of the LEAD initiative in September 2023

Dr David raised a vet’s concerns about unintended consequences with XL bully dogs becoming more aggressive due to a lack of socialisation and being kept inside.

He told the Senedd that animal welfare charities are also concerned that irresponsible breeders will try to find ways around the incoming ban or breed other aggressive dogs.


Lesley Griffiths, Wales’ animal welfare minister, said the ban on XL bullies is due to the disproportionate number of attacks.

Lesley Griffiths MS, the Welsh Government's minister for rural affairs
Lesley Griffiths MS, the Welsh Government’s minister for rural affairs

She highlighted a written statement setting out the next steps on responsible dog ownership following a dangerous dogs summit held in October.

Ms Griffiths stressed that the Welsh Government will use every power at its disposal, saying a consultation around legislation will be published this week.

Laura Anne Jones told the chamber that the XL bully breed was responsible for six out of 10 lethal dog attacks in 2022.

Laura Anne Jones MS speaking in the Senedd
Laura Anne Jones MS speaking in the Senedd

The Conservative MS for South Wales East urged Welsh ministers to work closely with the UK Government to ensure the update to the Act is properly enforced. 

Ms Griffiths said Welsh Government officials are working closely with Whitehall counterparts ahead of the ban coming into force at the new year.

She told the Senedd she was due to meet Steve Barclay, the Defra secretary, last week but he cancelled the meeting.


Asked about October’s dangerous dogs summit, she said: “We were very, very fortunate that Jack Lis’ mother came and addressed us which, as you can imagine, was incredibly powerful and gave us a lot of food for thought.”

Ms Griffiths stressed the importance of preventing the dangers presented by irresponsible dog ownership.

She explained that Defra has established a responsible dog ownership working group to identify any additional measures to reduce attacks.

Peredur Owen Griffiths welcomed the summit, calling for details of what palpable change his constituents will see and raising concerns about unintended consequences.

Peredur Owen Griffiths at the Senedd on December 7, 2021
Plaid Cymru Senedd Member Peredur Owen Griffiths, who represents the South Wales East region

Ms Griffiths told the Plaid Cymru MS that recommendations included reform to how police forces prioritise and report dog-related incidents.

She said the Welsh Government will be looking to update dog breeding regulations.

Ms Griffiths told MSs she would not want to see dogs abandoned, with third-sector rescue centres already under incredible pressure.

She argued that one step – adding XL bullies to the Dangerous Dogs Act – will not alone make the legislation fit for purpose.


Janet Finch-Saunders, for the Conservatives, pointed out that dog owners in Ireland must have a licence – which cost €20 a year or a lifetime fee of €140.

She highlighted a similar licensing scheme in Northern Ireland and an online registration system in one Canadian province. 

The Aberconwy MS, who previously owned a pet business, said: “Dog licensing could mean that stray dogs can be reunited more easily with their owners.”

Ms Griffiths said officials are exploring dog licensing: “For me, if somebody is paying hundreds of pounds for a dog – they can pay for a dog licence.”

But she was wary of unintended consequences, saying, for example, a pensioner may not be able to afford a licence and a dog can offer great companionship.