A woman who has an XL Bully which she uses as an assistance dog fears she'll lose him as new laws come into force in the UK.
Josie Shanaham, 27, has bipolar and anxiety disorders and got beloved canine companion Mars when she was 25 as an auxiliary aid. The pooch has the same rights as a guide dog but with the controversial breed now set to be banned nationwide, Josie worries she might not meet the requirements needed to keep him.
She believes her home, a caravan, will not meet the new guidelines set out around ownership of the breed and has concerns she may have to put Mars down. She said: "His presence and effect on my mental health opened up our lives and let us out of the cage.
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"My mum’s able to work again, and I’m able to go out and go to college by myself – which I could never have done before Mars."
Josie said she fell in love with Mars as soon as she saw him and paid just £950 for him as he was the runt of the litter. She said he's kept on a double leash at all times and doesn't have the aggressive personality some people associate with the dogs.
"He wears a double leash, but he would never hurt anyone, even when smaller dogs attack, he doesn’t retaliate at all," she said. "As soon as I took him home I connected with him, he always knows when I’m upset, or need any support from him. As far as we know he’s the only fully-qualified American XL bully assistance dog in the country."
XL Bully defined by Government as owners given green light to put 'dangerous' dogs down
Since the government announced new laws surrounding the breed coming into force from December 31, Josie says she's noticed people being more wary of her and her pet. "I'm scared to go out because the dog is bringing so much attention," she continued.
"Either people telling me I shouldn’t have the dog or people wanting to pet him and say how lovely he is and that it’s not fair the Bullies are getting banned."
Under the new laws XL Bullies have to be kept in a secure place where it cannot escape, and Josie fears her home may not meet these strict guidelines. She also doesn't have any paperwork proving Mars is an auxiliary aid.
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The government recently announced plans to ban the dogs in the UK and defined the breed ahead of the rules coming into force. Announcing the decision back in September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the breed as "a danger to our communities, particularly our children," adding: "It is clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs, it’s a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on."
Those who wish to keep their dogs have until January 31, 2024, to register them. After that point it will become illegal to own XL Bullies unless they are registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs.
As well as keeping any exempt dogs safely tucked away, owners must also ensure the dog is microchipped, kept on a lead and muzzled in public. The government is now offering £200 as compensation for people to have their XL Bully put down voluntarily.
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