XL bully ban needs brought in to Northern Ireland ASAP - Jake O’Kane

Dog-loving Jake has no time for the argument that there’s no such thing as dangerous dogs, only bad owners...

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

Jake and his border terriers
Jake and his border terriers Toffee and Ted

There are times when local politics becomes so surreal that all a satirist can do is admit defeat and leave the field for more serious writers to do their thing. This is such a time.

How can I compete with the histrionics within the DUP with its secret deals, agreed at secret meetings, secretly bugged, with the deal turning out to have no more substance than a bucket of hot air?

So, I will leave our political dysfunction and instead comment on a much more important issue, namely dangerous dogs. I hope you’ll give me some credit for not making the obvious corollary between the previous topic and this one.

This week saw the deadline for XL bully dogs in England and Wales to either be registered and abide by strict new guidelines, or be put down. Similar measures comes into force in Scotland soon, but thanks to two years of Stormont collapse, we’ve been left behind. Introducing XL bully legislation to the north will need to be a priority for the new Executive.

As a dog owner all my life, the last thing I’d ever want is to see is a healthy dog euthanised, but when the choice is between a dog and possible loss of human life, there is no choice.

Whilst I have sympathy with those XL bully owners who believe their pet is docile and properly trained, the reality remains that this breed proves an especially high risk to the public, something demonstrated by the fact they’ve been responsible for over 50% of fatal dog attacks in the UK between 2021 and 2023. Standing up to 23 inches in height to the withers and weighing up to 150 lbs, these animals pose a clear and present danger to even an adult man. Tragically, some fatalities have involved children.

An MP has called for young XL bully dogs not to be neutered until they are mature
A ban on XL bully dogs in Britain needs to urgently be extended to Northern Ireland (Jacob King/PA)

The arguments used by breed advocates coincide with those used by American gun owners, along the lines of ‘Dogs don’t kill people, bad owners who don’t train their dogs kill people’.

This no doubt is true, but a counter-argument is there’s much less chance that a badly trained terrier will cause the same damage as an XL, whose jaw strength is capable of breaking a man’s arm.

The most obvious question is why such a breed was developed in the first place. The XL bully is a comparatively recent variant originating in the 1980s in the US, coinciding with the growth of the hip-hop sub-culture. A firm favourite of drug dealers who chose them over guns for protection, they soon morphed into a cultural style accessory. It wasn’t until 2015 that the breed first appeared here but they quickly became a common sight.

The arguments used by XL bully advocates coincide with those used by American gun owners, along the lines of ‘Dogs don’t kill people, bad owners who don’t train their dogs kill people’

I’ve long argued that there exists an inversely proportionate law between the size of a dog and its owner, in other words, the bigger the dog, the smaller the man and vice versa. We’ve all met the scrawny wimp being dragged along by a lion on a lead shouting at anyone who’ll listen, ‘Don’t worry mate, he’s fine, he wouldn’t touch ye’, as the salivating beast concerned tries to break free and attack. When I come across such individuals, I’d love to explain to them how their choice of dog breed only proves to the world how physically inadequate they obviously feel.

As for myself, I own the two very cheeky but well-trained Border Terriers Toffee and Ted. And that’s the final point I’d like to make: if you own a dog then remember they’re a pack animal and feel most relaxed and happy if you’re in control. Too often, I see owners who, through fear or inexperience, can’t control their dogs.

When I say ‘sit’, my dogs sit; when on the lead, they walk beside me, and when I call them back, they come. If you can’t do the same, I’d suggest you go to one of the many dog training classes available; if you do, I guarantee you’ll have a happier dog.


Tragically I’ve discovered training dogs and training children to be somewhat different. Not that I’ve much to complain about with my two.

My 16-year-old son posed an unusual question recently, asking me if I was forced to choose, which of my fingers I’d chop off? It turned out he’d read that some in the UK military were suggesting the return of conscription due to the increasing dangers posed by Russian expansionism. Only half-joking, he’d decided self-mutilation would be a better alternative to being parachuted into Siberia.

I was able to put his mind at rest, explaining his Irish passport would negate the necessity for such dramatic measures. I hope this brings some relief to others - of all traditions - with similar worries.