Fatal American Bully dog attacks on humans appear to be on the rise but the breed is not considered dangerous by UK law.
Toddler Bella-Rae Birch, 17 months, was mauled to death by an XL version of the dog on Monday at her home in St Helen’s, Merseyside.
The tragic tot’s family had only bought the pet a week before.
It comes after an MP’s calls for the Dangerous Dogs Act to be “strengthened”.
The latest data available from the Office for National Statistics shows there was a record high amount of dog attacks in 2020, with 1,700 children injured.
Official figures say 22 people were killed as a result of dog attacks in England and Wales between 2013 and 2019.
However, the ONS does not hold information regarding the breed of dog as this information is not recorded on death certificates.
Unofficial data suggests there have been nine fatal dog attacks since January 2020, three of which involved American Bully dogs, all between November last year and now.
Prior to that, it does not appear any recorded fatal attacks in this country involved that breed – though it is impossible to say for sure.
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At a press conference outside the Birch family home, Merseyside Police Superintendent Steve Brizell said the dog was handed over to police at the address and had been humanely destroyed.
I have added detailed investigations were continuing to identify the previous owners and establish its history.
Forensic tests were then carried out to determine the breed.
Neighbors said Bella-Rae’s dad Ryan Birch had bought the animal – which appeared to be fully grown – “for buttons” days before the attack.
“Even an adult wouldn’t stand a chance against a dog like that,” one local told the MailOnline.
It comes just months after schoolboy Jack Lis died after being attacked by another American Bully XL in Caerphilly, Wales, on November 8 last year.
The 10-year-old suffered “severe injuries to his head and neck” during the incident at a friend’s home before the dog was shot dead by police.
The eight-stone animal was called Beast and had initially been mistakenly identified by police as an American Bulldog.
Kennel owner Adam Watts, who dedicated his life to saving dogs and campaigning for their welfare, was also killed last December by an American Bully XL.
The 55-year-old was attacked at the Juniper Kennels and Cattery in Kirkton of Auchterhouse, near Dundee, on December 22.
His death left his five children orphans, just days before Christmas.
Meanwhile, in August last year, a four-year-old boy was mauled by what was thought to be an XL outside a Sainsbury’s supermarket in Wolverhampton.
Horrified shoppers witnessed the attack on Kenmare Way on August 11, describing how the animal suddenly leapt at him.
One said the child received a “nasty” bite on his upper leg.
A supermarket worker said the dog belonged to a homeless man who often sat outside the entrance.
But the man told reporters at the scene his 11-month-old pet named Donnie had merely given the boy a “graze.”
The boy was taken to hospital for treatment, but West Midlands police said his injuries were not thought to be life-changing.
The Bully is a relatively young designer breed which originated in the US in the 1980s – intended as a more family-friendly version of the American Pitbull Terrier.
It comes in several sizes, including the biggest XL.
Various breeders combined American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Olde English Bulldogges, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and French Bulldogs.
The end result was the modern American Bully, which was recognized as a breed by the US United Kennel Club in 2013.
The club describes Bullies as typically gentle and friendly, with a “zest and exuberance for life” – while attacking humans is out of their character.
In fact, generally smaller than American Bulldogs and easier to train, they often act as lap dogs.
The breed is not subject to any prohibitions under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
The only dogs banned in the UK are the Pitbull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.
The 1991 Act also criminalises cross-breeds of the four illegal types – meaning that whether a dog is prohibited will depend on a judgment about its physical characteristics, and whether they match the description of a prohibited ‘type’.
In light of Jack’s death, Wayne David, the Labor MP for Caerphilly, called for a change to the current law, saying: “There needs to be an examination of the Dangerous Dogs Act to see if it needs to be strengthened.”
American Bullies were, however, at the center of an illegal ear cropping scandal last year amid a puppy boom.
BBC documentary The Hidden World of Designer Dog Breeding in July 2021 exposed a backyard network of breeders who were mutilating infant dogs’ ears in an effort to make them look tougher.
During the documentary, Vanessa Waddon, the founder of Hope Rescue in Llanharan, which took in six ear-cropped puppies at the end of last year, said she believes social media is driving the demand.
Vanessa said: “There are lots of Instagram influencers, lots of celebrities who have these types of dogs. They’re posting them on their social media feeds.
“The average person wouldn’t be able to afford these prices so they might be tempted to go out and get a dog from a backyard breeder or an unlicensed breeder who is doing this illegally in this country.”
In January, Jedd Wiegold was jailed for his involvement in the arranging and causing of mutilation by ear cropping of American Bully puppies, WalesOnline reports.
The 32-year-old, from Machen in Caerphilly borough bred and sold Bully puppies for at least two years which he’d arranged to be mutilated with cropped ears to earn extra cash.
The offenses occurred between March 24, 2019, and March 23, 2020, when Wiegold bred and advertised more than three breeding bitches and litters.
The full extent of his earnings is not known, however puppies were advertised for up to £6,500 and £10,000.