“American XL Bully” injured three people in three days, then killed 10-year-old neighbor
LONDON, United Kingdom––On Monday, June 6, 2022, the British Parliament heard from pit bull advocates in the House of Commons a litany of familiar arguments against the breed-specific aspects of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
On Friday, June 10, 2022, Brandon Hayden, 19, and Amy Salter, 29, were sent to prison for four and a half years and three years, respectively, for their parts in the November 8, 2021 pit bull attack killing of neighbor Jack Lis, age 10, in Caerphilly, Wales, who was playing with a friend next door.
The town name is commonly pronounced “carefully.”
Both Hayden and Salter were also prohibited indefinitely from keeping dogs.
Police again fail to enforce intent of Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
Pit bull advocates almost immediately after Lis was killed flooded social media with arguments that the dog, named Beast, shot by police at the scene, was not a pit bull because he was an “American XL Bully.”
Pit bull advocates claimed support from Gwent Police chief superintendent Mark Hobraugh, who told media that “A dog legislation expert, who is assisting our investigation, has concurred with the dog legislation officer’s report classifying the breed as an American bulldog.
“This breed does not feature on the list of banned dogs,” Hobraught said, “and is therefore not illegal to own in this country.”
Little could more clearly demonstrate the major deficiency in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: not that it is breed-specific, but rather that application of the act is time and again tailored to exempt law enforcement agencies from the duty of enforcing it, after non-enforcement of the intent of the act leads to a mauling or a death.
Pit bulls & pickup trucks
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 bans American pit bull terriers.
The relationship between an “American pit bull terrier” and an “American XL Bully” is essentially the difference between a Ford Ranger and a Ford F-350: though the latter vehicle is much bigger, both are Fords, both are pickup trucks, and both are built to do the same thing.
Like the definition of “pickup truck,” the historical, traditional, and practical definition of “pit bull” is based on functional attributes, not make or model.
Just as many automobile manufacturers produce a line of pickup trucks, each with a different brand name, many pit bull breeders have produced pit bull lines, under various names, usually meant to disguise that a pit bull is ancestrally a pit bull.
Lee & Lindsey Jenkins
But those name variations do not change the reality that dogs of fighting dog physical attributes are pit bulls, any more than the Dodge, Chevrolet, or Toyota brand name changes the reality that a pickup truck is a pickup truck.
Brandon Hayden and Amy Salter, found Cardiff Common Court Judge Michael Fitton QC, knew exactly what they had when they acquired Beast, the “American XL Bully” who killed Jack Lis.
Beast had been advertised on Facebook by Lee and Lindsey Jenkins on October 29, 2021.
Posted Lee Jenkins, 34, who as a roofer by trade might be described as a risk-taker, “Looking to re-home my boy, he’s 15 months old, great with people but unfortunately he does not like other dogs at all. I’ve tried my best with him, I have other dogs and cannot put them at risk, he needs someone with time.”
Just 23 days earlier Lee Jenkins boasted online of Beast’s size and strength.
Breeders disavow responsibility
Lee and Lindsey Jenkins were breeding pit bulls, having on April 2, 2021 posted a photo of suckling puppies captioned “And just like that we have 10 absolute tanks,” hashtagged “blueeyes beauties#madhouse#bully zoo.”
Lee and Lindsey Jenkins rehomed Beast to Brandon Hayden on November 4, 2021, four days before Beast killed Jack Lis, but denied having any responsibility for the death.
“I am not the owner of that dog,” Lee Jenkins told Darren Boyle of the Daily Mail. “I told the police everything I know,” Jenkins insisted. “They know I have nothing to do with it. It’s not my dog and it’s since been re-homed from me.”
Allegedly used Beast to intimidate
Security surveillance video shown to the Cardiff Common Court showed Brandon Hayden walking Beast around Caerphilly between November 4, 2021 and November 7, 2021, the day before the fatal attack on Jack Lis, appearing to lead Beast deliberately into proximity to people and animals.
The video captured Beast in the act of lunging at multiple adults, a child, a much smaller dog, and a cat.
Beast reportedly bit three men and Hayden’s co-defendant Amy Salter before attacking Jack Lis.
Salter, who had apparently had a relationship with Hayden for about six months, agreed to house Beast after Hayden accepted him from Lee and Lindsey Jenkins without having anywhere to take him.
“‘Ms. Salter assisted with feeding and watering Beast, but Mr. Hayden supplied food and was the only person who walked him,” prosecutor Gareth James told the court.
Has Parliament learned anything?
What lessons, if any, Parliament might have learned from the death of Jack Lis and at least 46 other people since 2007 remains to be seen.
Fifty-seven “bully breed” dogs were involved in those fatal attacks, of whom only six were officially found to be “American pit bulls,” but another five were officially found to be “American bulldogs,” a term which has never denoted anything except a pit bull, and 18 were called “Staffordshires.”
The other eighteen bully breed dogs included two “American Bull XL,” two Cane Corsos, four Rottweilers, and a variety of others designated by common euphemisms for “pit bull.”
Member of Parliament Christina Rees of Neath, representing the Labor Party, opened the June 6, 2022 debate over possible amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
“Four breeds are banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991,” Rees summarized. “They are the pit bull terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro.
“Dogs suspected of being of a prohibited type are assessed against a standard which describes what a particular type should look like,” Rees recited.
“For example, pit bull terrier types are compared with a 1977 American Dog Breeders Association standard, and the dog is expected to approximately amount to, be near to, or have a substantial number of characteristics described by the 1977 standard.
“However, the number of characteristics is not defined, and neither is the way in which the assessment should be conducted,” Rees said, “which results in many legal breeds and cross-breeds fitting the standard regardless of the dog’s behavior.”
Rees omitted mention that the Parliamentary intent in passing the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was to prohibit the import of all dogs believed to have the dangerous characteristics of pit bulls.
Parliament was persuaded by “Staffordshire” advocates at that time that “pit bulls” were a perversion of dog breeding not yet found in the United Kingdom, and that they could be kept out just by banning the suspect foreign breeds.
Reality is that the “Staffordshire” pit bull line had been developed in the U.S. by dogfighter John P. Colby, beginning about a century before, and that no dog had ever been mentioned as a “Staffordshire” either by news media or in dog breed literature before Colby exported some of his fighting dogs to the United Kingdom.
“What’s in a name?”
Parliament in 1991 also failed to foresee that pit bull enthusiasts would invent a multitude of new names to disguise the identity of pit bulls.
Animal shelters, as in the U.S., were soon increasingly flooded with pit bulls and pit bull variants who, by any name, had already flunked out of homes. Eager to rehome them, U.K. sheltering organizations joined in obscuring accurate identification of pit bulls.
Then, as ever more deaths, maimings, and maulings of other animals by run-amok pit bulls ensued, many law enforcement agencies deflected criticism for not enforcing the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 by participating in the charade.
First attacks must be prevented
Lost amid all this, again as in the U.S., where the hue-and-cry from pit bull advocates to “judge the deed, not the breed” is almost identical, is the reality that no law can protect the public from fatal and disfiguring dog attacks if it does not prevent first attacks, especially first attacks by dogs bred to kill.
Christina Rees went on to introduce an electronic petition created by one Anita Mehdi, whose pit bull Lola was impounded by police in August 2019 and ordered to be euthanized.
Lola, Mehdi maintained and Rees repeated, had purportedly “never shown any aggression towards anyone and had never been involved in any incidents,” which is also claimed by the owners of many and perhaps most pit bulls who are involved in fatal or disfiguring attacks.
A court allowed Mehdi to keep Lola on condition that Lola was sterilized, microchipped and always kept on a lead and muzzled in public.
RSPCA et al sell out safety to sell more pit bulls
Before the June 6, 2022 Parliamentary debate, Rees said, “I met representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [RSPCA] and the Dog Control Coalition. The coalition was formed in 2019 with five members: the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, the British Veterinary Association, and Dogs Trust, whose operations of rehoming and promoting animal welfare had been detrimentally affected by [the breed-specific provisions of] the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
“The Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Kennel Club subsequently joined the coalition,” Rees recounted.
None of Rees’ fellow Parliamentarians pointed out, either then or later, that all seven organizations have a substantial economic interest in being able to rehome pit bulls and other dangerous dogs, and little liability for whatever harm they do, since the National Health Service bears almost all of the costs of treating human injuries that result from dog attacks.
The Member from Caerphilly
Wayne David, the Labor Party Member of Parliament who represents Caerphilly, and thereby supposedly represents the concerns of Jack Lis’ parents, Emma Whitfield and John Lis, rose to mention that, “In the five months to February 2022, there were 69 dog attacks in the Gwent police area, which is relatively small, and that figure can be extrapolated right across the country. Nothing highlights more how ineffective the current legislation is.
“It is clear that breed-specific legislation does not achieve its intended purpose, which is to reduce the number of serious attacks on humans by dangerous dogs,” David asserted, without mentioning that the problem is not the principle of breed-specific legislation, but rather the broad exemption granted by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to every type of pit bull not specifically identified as an “American pit bull terrier.”
“Licensing & training”
Asked David, “Does my honorable friend agree that a fundamentally different approach is required to tackle all kinds of dangerous dogs, to look at the issues of licensing and training, and to make sure that the illicit sale of dogs is prevented and that proper controls are introduced? That requires a totally different approach to legislation.”
Dog licensing in the United Kingdom was mandatory from 1867 to 1988, and remains required in Northern Ireland. The licensing authorities in England, Scotland, and Wales, however, never achieved even 50% compliance.
England, Scotland, and Wales introduced mandatory microchipping in 2016. Repeated surveys by the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home have discovered only 26% compliance.
80% of fatalities are by exempted bully breeds
Justin Madders, Labor Member of Parliament for Ellesmere Port and Neston, mentioned that, “In the past 20 years, dog bites have increased by 154%, but only 8% of dangerously out-of-control dog cases involved banned breeds. What is happening with the other 92% of out-of-control dog cases? Why have all the legislative eggs been put in one basket, which accounts for only 8% of the problem?”
Again the simple answer is that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 exempts all bully breeds except the American pit bull terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino, and the Fila Brasileiro.
Of the 64 dogs involved in the most recent 46 fatal dog attacks in the U.K., 80% have been by exempted bully breeds; 89% altogether have been by bully breeds.
Vet testifies: “Consider breed and/or deed”
Eventually Neil Hudson, VMD, Conservative Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border, rose to speak.
“I am encouraged to hear that the Government’s response is to look at the evidence when reviewing such legislation,” Hudson began.
“Sadly, some dogs and some behaviors are dangerous to people and to animals. In combination with powerful jaw structures and dog bodies, that becomes quite frightening.
“Some talk about how we should be looking at the deed, not the breed,” Hudson said, “and I am sympathetic to that. However, as we know, some breeds are dangerous, and I suggest to the Minister that a middle ground might be to think holistically and to consider breed and/or deed.”
Minister: “Public safety remains the absolutely paramount point”
The cabinet minister whose portfolio includes the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Responded Churchill, “My honorable friend speaks both as a Member in this place and as an esteemed member of the veterinary profession, pointing out that we are not looking for an all-or-nothing approach here. That is very timely, and I thank him for it.
“I understand the strength of feeling about breed-specific legislation,” Churchill told Parliament, “but the Government must balance the views of those who want it repealed with our responsibility to protect the public. We remain concerned that lifting the current restrictions may not be the optimal move forward.”
Churchill pledged, however, to “explore these issues more widely. If we make any changes,” Churchill said, “we will ensure that public safety remains the absolutely paramount point at the heart of the regime.”
Among the most influential voices in debate over amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 will be Ben Glaze, deputy political editor for The Mirror, the eighth most read newspaper in the United Kingdom, with daily circulation of 832,000.
The Mirror also happens to be the British newspaper most strongly allied with the Labor Party, some of whose Members of Parliament are leading the charge to dismantle the breed-specific aspects of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
Glaze, however, on May 18, 2022 defined a clearly opposite position.
“At the moment only four breeds of dog are banned,” Glaze wrote. “This list should be widened to make it illegal to own, breed or sell other dangerous types of dogs.
“Bring in a new law requiring owners to register certain breeds of dogs which could be potentially dangerous. Similar laws exist in France and Austria,” Glaze recommended.
Finished Glaze, “Anyone wanting to own a potentially dangerous breed of dog should be made to attend a training course and the dog should assessed for its behavior.”
Testified Emma Whitfield to media after Hayden and Salter were sentenced, “This,” the death of her son, “has been the consequence of someone wanting a status symbol.
“This animal was not a family pet. It was made to be this way and there was absolutely no intent on anyone calming it from the moment it was born.
“More needs to be done regarding the law ,” Whitfield said, “to prevent these types of owners and to prevent this situation from happening again.”