SNP MSP Christine Grahame fails in bid to quash second phase of XL bully safeguards in Scotland | UK News

An SNP MSP has failed in a bid to quash the second phase of the XL bully safeguards in Scotland.

Christine Grahame has been a vocal critic of the legislation and lodged a motion for Holyrood’s criminal justice committee to recommend the next phase be annulled.

At the meeting on Wednesday, the MSP said she had “grave concerns” over the quality of the “poor legislation”.

Ms Grahame said it would “demonise owners” and lead to “misery for many dogs”.

She highlighted more than 55,000 dogs had been registered down south with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in regards to the UK government’s legislation covering England and Wales.

Ms Grahame said: “This gives you an idea of the size of the issue.

“Now, I accept, these numbers are staggering and as a result of some horrendous attacks no fewer [than] 55,000 dogs-plus will be neutered, muzzled and some put down.

“To date, 300 have been put down. These were not dogs that were subject to any criminal proceedings. These would be healthy dogs that were put down, and the distress to owners is considerable.”

SNP MSP Christine Grahame with winner Mabel at the 2022 Holyrood Dog of the Year competition. Pic: PA

Ms Grahame noted there had been issues in regards to the definition of an XL bully and concerns raised over the veterinary capacity to effectively manage the safeguards.

She said, according to DEFRA, the male XL bully has to be 20in in height and the female 19in.

Ms Grahame said: “Therefore an XL bully 16 or 17 inches would not have to wear a muzzle and lead. I mean this is nonsense. This is complete nonsense”.

The MSP said there are more than 5,000 XL bully dogs in Scotland.

She said: “This is the problem when you tackle a breed or a breed type and not the actions of the owner in control of the dog.”

Ms Grahame’s motion was not agreed.

The Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP said she expected it to fail but pressed on, saying: “I want to have members accountable for their votes.”

The criminal justice committee was taking evidence on The Dangerous Dogs (Compensation and Exemption Schemes) (Scotland) Order 2024.

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The first phase of the Scottish government’s safeguards on XL bully dogs came into force on 23 February, which Ms Grahame also failed to annul.

Holyrood is replicating regulations introduced by Westminster, which makes it a criminal offence to own an unlicensed XL bully dog without an exemption certificate.

The breed must be kept on a lead and muzzled when out in public. Selling, breeding, abandoning or giving the dogs away is also now illegal.

The second phase, coming into force in August, will make it a criminal offence to own an unlicensed XL bully dog without an exemption certificate – which will include having the pet microchipped and neutered.

Compensation will be payable to owners who no longer wish to keep their pet, including reimbursement for euthanasia.

Those that are convicted of breaching the rules could face up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

Community safety minister Siobhian Brown. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV
Community safety minister Siobhian Brown. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV

Community safety minister Siobhian Brown said XL bully owners will have between 1 April and 31 July to seek exemption for their pets.

She said full details of the exemption application process will be published online then.

The rules were implemented in England and Wales following a spate of attacks in which people died or were injured by the breed.

The Scottish government said the regulations were being introduced north of the border after the UK government’s controls reportedly “created an unacceptable risk of dogs being moved to Scotland from England and Wales“.

Read more from Sky News:
XL bully safeguards: First phase comes into force in Scotland
How experts predict XL bully ban will change things in 2024

Russell Findlay, Scottish Tory MSP for West Scotland, questioned Ms Brown over the Scottish government’s stance over “deed not breed”.

Russell Findlay MSP. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV
Russell Findlay MSP. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV

He said: “[Ms Brown] said that she believes in deed not breed. Yet this legislation is breed specific.

“I think this is causing people some confusion as to how you can hold two opposing opinions at the same time, which is your position.”

Ms Brown responded: “My position is, as the Scottish government’s is, it’s the deed not the breed.

“As Mr Findlay is well aware, we are in this position because this legislation was announced last September with no notice to the Scottish government.”

Mr Findlay, who supports the legislation, replied if XL bullies “aren’t inherently a problem”, then “what problem would it be if they’re coming to Scotland”.

Ms Brown stressed she did believe in the legislation, but moving forward Holyrood will “still commit to deed not breed”.

Mr Findlay replied: “Well, it’s incoherent, but thank you for trying to answer.”


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