THE owner of a 'safe haven' for XL Bullies has slammed the government’s ban on the breed type.

Stephanie Cheadle, who owns The Dog Paddocks, has criticised the decision to add dogs meeting certain physical characteristics, known collectively as XL Bullies, to the list of dogs prohibited by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

The secure fields she operates across Cheshire are now among the only places where such dogs are allowed off-lead and without a muzzle.

“Our facilities have always been somewhere that people come for a purpose but even more so now - we have become a safe haven for all dogs affected by breed-specific legislation,” said Stephanie.

“Other than their own homes, this is the only place that these dogs can have some normality.

“I feel quite privileged, as a dog lover and advocate for rescue, that we can offer that.

“I’m going to make sure we go above and beyond to make it a safe place for the people that really do need it.”

Northwich Guardian: One of the many XL Bullies that use The Dog PaddocksOne of the many XL Bullies that use The Dog Paddocks (Image: Supplied)

The XL Bully ban came into effect at the end of last year.

Under the new rules, it is illegal to sell, abandon, give away, or breed an XL Bully dog.

It is also against the law to have one in public without a lead and muzzle.

Then, from February 1, it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales unless it has a Certificate of Exemption.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have taken quick and decisive action to protect the public from tragic dog attacks by adding the XL Bully type to the list of dogs prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

 “Alongside this, we are focused on ensuring that the full range of existing powers to tackle dog control issues are effectively applied across all breeds of dog.

“This includes considering the role of education and training to reduce the risk of dog attacks, as well as how we can improve data collection and enforcement practices.”

Northwich Guardian: The Dog Paddocks are among the only places where XLs can be without a lead or muzzleThe Dog Paddocks are among the only places where XLs can be without a lead or muzzle (Image: Supplied)

As Davenham resident Stephanie explains, the XL Bully is not a specific breed but a set of physical characteristics such as size and height.

However, the ban does not apply to dogs that are 'clearly identifiable as another breed', even if they meet the criteria.

First and foremost, Stephanie believes the government must clear up its guidance on the matter.

She said: “The government guidelines are as clear as mud, it’s a minefield in all honesty.

“We have a lot of clients whose dogs potentially meet type and there are a lot of people registering their dogs for exemption because they’re afraid.

“In my opinion, a lot of the legislation will cause more harm than good.

“I feel the ban needs some serious addressing as a minimum.”

Northwich Guardian: Stephanie feels a blanket ban on XL Bullies is completely unfairStephanie feels a blanket ban on XL Bullies is completely unfair (Image: Supplied)

Stephanie feels there are far bigger issues that should’ve been dealt with first, such as bad breeders and owners, as well as a lack of accountability with regards to animal cruelty.

She also believes the ban was brought in too quickly, with little over three months between being announced and coming into effect.

“It’s caused chaos in animal rescue and for owners,” Stephanie said.

“We’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, of emails from people asking us for advice.

“A blanket ban is completely unfair.

“I have friends with dogs that meet type who are more than 10 years old and have never so much as looked at another dog and they being tarred with the same brush as the handful of dogs that have been involved in fatal attacks.”