XL bully Sheffield: 'My XL bullies are loving but they should bring back dog licences to stop bad owners'

Sheffield owner explains how he takes loving XL bullies for walks at 4am, but wants dog licences to stop bad owners
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They may be facing a Government ban - but Sheffield XL bully owner Liam Cousins says they are the most affectionate dogs he has ever known.

Despite the species having acquired a notorious reputation, Liam loves his dogs, and is not worried that they will hurt someone because they have been properly trained.

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But despite that confidence in his animals, he does not take them out after 4am, a time when he says there is no one else around on the streets, and he believes that it is time for the Government to bring back dog licences to stop irresponsible owners from getting their hands on dogs.

Liam Cousins, with Luna, one of two XL Bully dogs he owns, which he describes as the most loving dogs he has had. He would like to see dog licences brought back. PIcture: Liam CousinsLiam Cousins, with Luna, one of two XL Bully dogs he owns, which he describes as the most loving dogs he has had. He would like to see dog licences brought back. PIcture: Liam Cousins
Liam Cousins, with Luna, one of two XL Bully dogs he owns, which he describes as the most loving dogs he has had. He would like to see dog licences brought back. PIcture: Liam Cousins

Liam knows all about XL Bullies, as he has two of them at his Sheffield home, a male and a female called Kobe and Luna, and also pays to take them to a dog park several times a week where they can run around safely, away from other people or other dogs, and feels there should be more facilities like that.

Liam told The Star: "I understand that there have been attacks, but I don't think it's fair to blame the dogs, In my opinion they're the most loving dogs I've ever had.

"I think a lot of the problems come from owners, when dogs that are locked up in a cage, break free, and that's when something happens. It could happen with any dog, but because of the size and the power it can be dangerous with XL bullies. I think it went down hill during Covid, with too many people breeding them.

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"I've had mine for four years, and still wouldn't approach one, in case they have not been looked after properly.

Kobi relaxes on owner Liam's shoulder. Picture: Liam CousinsKobi relaxes on owner Liam's shoulder. Picture: Liam Cousins
Kobi relaxes on owner Liam's shoulder. Picture: Liam Cousins

"People should have to have a licence to own a dog, and to prove that they are looking after them and training them. I never let mine off the lead, and I agree with muzzles.

"I take mine out for their walks at 4am, when there is no one else around. It's not because I'm concerned that they would attack anyone, it is because I get dirty looks and unpleasant remarks about them. It's not ideal, but I'll do whatever it takes to protect them. I try to avoid anything that could cause damage to the dogs.

"I've got an eight month old baby, and we don't leave the dogs alone around him."

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Liam takes his dogs to the Rivelin Valley Dog Park on Saturdays and Sundays, and on a day during the week, where they can run around a 50m by 50m secure field. It costs him £10 an hour, but he feels it is important for his dogs.

He said: "They can have a proper run around - they need to burn off quite a lot of energy, and I think a lot of the problem is dogs not getting the energy release that they need."

Liam Cousins' XL Bully dogs Luna and Kobi in the family car for a trip to the Rivelin Valley Dog Park. Picture: Liam CousinsLiam Cousins' XL Bully dogs Luna and Kobi in the family car for a trip to the Rivelin Valley Dog Park. Picture: Liam Cousins
Liam Cousins' XL Bully dogs Luna and Kobi in the family car for a trip to the Rivelin Valley Dog Park. Picture: Liam Cousins

Liam decided to get XL bullies because he had always liked big dogs. He grew up with dogs, in a house which was also home to border collies, a Doberman cross, a collie cross, a German shepherd cross, and a golden retriever.

He said his mum was terrified when he first got Kobi and Luna, but now she loves them.

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He said: "I like the look of them, and they're loving dogs that make me laugh. You get a lot of love back from them. They're perfect. They sleep all day, and they know their routine. They are actually quite docile dogs.

"Before bringing our little one home, we spent a lot of time and money getting them trained, to make sure there were no issues. We got to introduce them properly. I would not leave them along with him, and we've followed advice from trainers."

Liam Cousins, with Kobi, one of two XL Bully dogs he owns, which he describes as the most loving dogs he has had. He would like to see dog licences brought back. Picture: Liam CousinsLiam Cousins, with Kobi, one of two XL Bully dogs he owns, which he describes as the most loving dogs he has had. He would like to see dog licences brought back. Picture: Liam Cousins
Liam Cousins, with Kobi, one of two XL Bully dogs he owns, which he describes as the most loving dogs he has had. He would like to see dog licences brought back. Picture: Liam Cousins

"But 100 per cent there should be more people doing what Mick does at Rivelin Valley Dog Park. It's ideal, not just for XL bullies, but for thousands of dogs out there who don't like other dogs. It takes the pressure off and they can enjoy some freedom. It would be perfect."

There are currently only four illegal breeds of dog in Britain - the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro - but earlier this month Prime MinisterRishi Sunak announced plans for American XL Bully dogs to be added to the banned list by the end of this year.

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The dog is not currently a ‘recognised breed’ in the UK, and the Government will first need to define what the breed looks like.

The dog licence was abolished in 1987 after which a series of consultations led to the dog control measures contained in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Dog licences had first been introduced in the Victorian era, but were scrapped in England, Scotland and Wales after they began to be seen as an unnecessary anachronism.

Earlier this month, South Yorkshire Police commissioner Dr Alan Billings raised concerns about the XL bully breed. It followed a big rise in the number of incidents involving the type of dog in June.

"When I see the figures of dog incidents in South Yorkshire and the percentage of XL bullies in them, it cannot just be about poor dog training. It is also about the breed," Dr Billings said.

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"The aggression and power of these dogs is part of their allure and we do not know what triggers that sudden turn from friendliness to savagery. Poor training simply compounds matters. I certainly wouldn't want to live next door to one," he added.