Influencer with XL Bully calls ban a “knee jerk reaction”
Trainingbilly / TikTok
An influencer who creates content on training her XL Bully called Billy has taken to TikTok to criticise Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's move to ban the breed after a rise in violent attacks by the breed, resulting in one fatality this week.
Sophie Coulthard, 39, has a TikTok with thousands of followers where she documents training her one-year-old American XL Bully. The breed has been banned by Prime Minister Sunak after a man in Staffordshire was mauled to death by two dogs on Thursday afternoon. An 11-year-old girl was also left with serious injuries last weekend after being attacked.
Prior to the announcement of the ban she uploaded a video that now has over 1 million viewers telling XL Bully owners to "get out there".
"There are people messaging me saying that they're too scared to walk their dogs," she said. "I feel like everyone's looking at him [Billy], I feel like people are nudging their partners, I feel like people are taking wide births with their children."
Coulthard tells dog owners, "we need to be getting out there and showing the world what responsible bully owners look like."
But, after the announcement the breed will be banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act, Coulthard attacked the move, yesterday (15 September) calling it a "classic populist move by the Tory government," as well as suggesting they are doing it to "grab hold of votes right now".
"You need to be getting your voice out there, literally right now across Twitter, Facebook," she tells viewers, before going on to call the ban a "knee jerk reaction that does not solve the problem for the long term".
#rishisunak has announced a ban on the #xlbully - ill share what i can when i know it but right now you need to strop crying and make your voice heard - write and call your MP, get on social media and get loud. Call your local news office and ask to be quoted. This is a grab for votes from our shoddy government. #americanbully #dontbullymybreed❤ #dangerousdogsact #bsl #xlbullyowner #dontbullymybully #torygovernmentjoke
"If the government truly cared about animal welfare and public safety they would be looking at better legislation not relying on legislation from the 90s that is proven to have not worked, that many people who have worked on that legislation have now said that it was not fit for purpose."
She finished the video by saying: "Now is not the time to cry, now is the time to make your voice heard."
In an update video posted a few hours later, Coulthard told viewers that she was on her way to meet with her MP to discuss the issue. She explained that she already had a meeting booked in with her MP that day to talk about a "different dog issue" but was hoping to discuss the XL Bully ban instead, calling it "fate" that she already had a meeting booked in.
Coulthard revealed that her MP was Fleur Anderson, the Labour MP for Putney, saying the two had "a really thoughtful discussion around what better legislation would be to actually improve animal welfare and public safety."
I just met my MP to discuss the #xlbullyban and had a thoughtful discussion about what better dog legislation could be. Write to your MP now and ask for a meeting! #xlbully #bsl #dontbullymybreed❤ #americanbully #dangerousdogsact #xlbullyowner #breedspecificlegislation
The 39-year-old dog owner said that Anderson, "accepted that there is a problem with overbreeding and dog bites across breeds". The MP also told Coulthard that she was going to raise the issue with the Shadow Environmental Health team.
"I really pressed it to her that total reform on dog breeding is the way forward and decent legislation for responsible ownership."
Coulthard then went on to urge viewers to meet with their own MPs to discuss the issue.
Comments under Coulthard's TikToks were mixed, some supported her stance and wanted to help. "Thank you for fighting for this beautiful breed," wrote one user.
Whilst another asked if Coulthard could share a "template email" to send to MPs.
However some said they supported the ban, saying it "needs to be done", with one user commenting "the XL bully band is a win for all REAL dog lovers."
The Dogs Control Coalition, that encompasses charities such as the RSCPA, Dogs Trust, and the Kennel Club, said it was "deeply concerned" by the "lack of data behind this decision and its potential to prevent dog bites".
However, campaign groups such as the Bully Watch, the Campaign for Evidence Based Regulation of Dangerous Dogs (CEBRDD) and Protect our Pets said the breed was a "clear and present threat to public health," in a joint statement.