THE Scottish Government is set to be involved in key talks around banning American XL bully dogs with other nations of the UK.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made clear his determination to ban the dogs in England following a spate of attacks, one of which led to the death of a man in Staffordshire while another saw an 11-year-old girl suffer serious injuries in Birmingham. 

Although the Dangerous Dogs Act is a UK-wide piece of legislation, Scotland is able to make its own amendments when it comes to the specifics of the legislation. 

First Minister Humza Yousaf said no firm decision has been made in Scotland last Friday but the Government was further pressed on what consideration it was giving to the matter by Tory MSP Jamie Greene in the chamber on Tuesday.

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On average, about three people were killed in England and Wales each year in dogs attacks from 2001 to 2021, but there has been a sudden increase in deaths, with XL bully dogs involved in a significant number of the attacks.

Siobhian Brown, Minister for Community Safety, said Scottish Government officials had met with the UK Government for talks and a representative would be involved in an expert group looking at the legal definition of an American XL bully dog.

She told the Parliament: “We’ve noted the intention of the UK Government to take steps to introduce a ban on American XL bully dogs.

“Scottish Government officials met with DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] and officials from Wales and Northern Ireland last Friday to discuss and hear more about the UK Government’s approach.

“The UK Government are planning to convene an expert group to specify a legal definition of the American bully XL and this group will consist of a body concerned with animal welfare, veterinary science and practice, and will include representatives from the police and the four nations.

“That work when carried out will inform our own consideration on any ban moving forward.

“We’re committed to giving full consideration to the issue and to ensure we arrive at the correct decision.”

Brown added that any ban on the dogs going forward would not necessarily mean they would be put down.

She said: “It’s very important that we emphasise that a dog being a banned breed does not automatically mean it’s going to be put down. There are conditions that can be met such as having the dog neutered, or keeping the dog muzzled in public, or the dog can be placed on the index of exempted dogs by the court.”

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The index is operated by DEFRA on a UK-wide basis.

Greene also asked the Scottish Government whether there had been any progress with toughening existing legislation governing extreme and illegal breeding and irresponsible ownership, an issue he raised back in January.

Brown said a working group had been established to look at this.

She added: “We have established an operational working group involving local authorities, Police Scotland and Cosla and other key stakeholders to progress this work. We published updated statutory guidance to help local authorities to carry out their functions under the control of dogs legislation.”

With SNP backbencher Christine Grahame bringing forward a member’s bill to Holyrood on dog welfare, Yousaf said last week that proposed legislation could mean “there may be opportunities to consider a ban up here in Scotland”.