A British woman who owns an XL bully dog has urged other owners to ‘get out there’ and show their dog is safe as ‘now is not the time to hide’.
Sophie Coulthard, 39, who goes by Training Billy the Bully on social media, has a one-year-old dog called Billy who ‘loves cuddles’ and has never growled.
The owner, an ‘advocate’ for the breed, has received an influx of messages from other XL Bully dog owners who are too scared to walk their dogs.
Despite admitting a stream of negative experiences since the announcement, she has urged owners to get outside and show the world what ‘responsible owners look like’.
The video, which has amassed two million views, has fuelled an intense debate online. While some agree that all dogs are ‘entitled to a walk’, others are taking a more stringent stance and liken Billy to a crocodile on leash.
Sophie Coulthard, 39, (pictured) has taken to TikTok to urge XL Bully dog owners that ‘now is not the time to hide’
Sophie told viewers: ‘XL Bully owners, you have to get out there. There are people messaging me saying they’re too scared to walk their dogs, that they’re walking their dogs at five in the morning because they’re worried about negative comments.
‘I will admit that it feels like I’m in a goldfish bowl at the moment, and I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way.
‘I feel like everyone’s looking at him. I feel like people are nudging their partners. I feel like people are taking wide births with their children.’
She continued: ‘You can’t be scared because we need to be getting out there and showing the world what responsible bully owners look like.
The pair had just visited the park where Billy was on a flexi lead. She urged owners to: ‘Wear a training pouch, take food, take a toy, do training with your dog, so people can see what you’re doing.’
She concluded: ‘Go and prove to people how good your dog is because this is what we need right now.
‘We all know how amazing these dogs are, we just need to prove it.’
The owner claimed to receive support from members of the public while demonstrating Billy’s training. Others follow suit in the comment section, however, many are unable to consider effective training as grounds to stop the ban on the breed.
The woman has urged viewers to show the country what a responsible XL Bully dog owner looks like
One user said: ‘All dogs are entitled to a walk.’
A second agreed and simply put: ‘#dontbullymybreed’
However, many others chimed in with a negative take. One said: ‘They all think they’re responsible owners until… responsible is not having one.’
Another wrote: ‘If you could trust him off lead and he had bulletproof recall, he would be an amazingly trained dog. but there’s a reason he’s on a flexi lead.’
Another said: ‘Great fun…UNTIL ITS NOT!!’
She previously told how her XL Bully loved ‘cuddles’ and said those using the dogs for ‘status’ and ‘protection’ would just find another breed if they were banned.
She said: ‘I genuinely believed this is being turned into a moral panic.
‘Retired dog experts have been using this language – “devil dogs”, “franken-bully” and “tiger on a lead”.
‘All that is doing is scaring the general public into putting pressure into a knee-jerk reaction.
‘You are going to have responsible owners like me who are unfairly targeted for the type of dog that I have, while dog attacks across all breeds are up at the moment.’
She added: ‘If we’ve learned anything from the Dangerous Dog Act, it’s that banning by type doesn’t work.
‘The people who are breeding irresponsibly and owning irresponsibly will just move onto another breed.’
But Ms Coulthard said those using the dogs for ‘status’ and ‘protection’ would just find another breed if they were banned
Ms Coulthard said she decided to get an XL Bully dog after seeking a dog that was both capable of going on hikes and could live in her London apartment.
She felt the US breed, which is a mixture of the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Bulldog and English Bulldog, would suit her lifestyle perfectly.
Ms Coulthard, who films videos about her dog on her TikTok profile ‘Training Billy the Bully’, said he’d never growled but she had worked hard to set boundaries for him.
She says ‘a moral panic’ had arisen around the powerful breed of bulldog following several high-profile attacks on youngsters.
And she warned against ‘knee-jerk’ changes to the law banning the breed – saying irresponsible owners should be at the forefront of new legislation.
And she didn’t recognize the characterisation of XL Bullies as naturally violent animals, adding that her pooch was the ideal ‘family companion’.
She said: ‘We looked at a Staffordshire Bull Terrie originally, but they tend to have quite little legs.
‘Then we ran into someone with an American bully, and thought “this is like a Staff but slightly bigger”.
‘Billy is your classic couch potato. If I take him to the park he loves to run around, but he’s always on a lead. He loves to play. He’s like any kind of happy-go-lucky dog.
‘He’s massively affectionate. He will literally lie on his back and demand that you stroke him all day, he’s really soft.
‘He is exactly what we wanted, which is a family companion dog. He has never growled or ever shown even a hint of aggression.
‘But I’ve always been conscious of teaching him ‘impulse control’ and putting things in place to make sure he has a happy life, but with boundaries.’
Ms Coulthard said she’d felt ‘stressed’ following calls to outlaw the breed, and said it was important that new legislation was drafted that introduced licences for owners.
It comes after Rishi Sunak was urged over the weekend to consider a general cull of all American XL bullies over fears that faster action was needed to combat the ‘killer dogs’.
The video, which amassed two millions views, has received a mixed reaction. While some have commented in solidarity, others think owning an XL Bully dog is irresponsible
The call from a senior Tory MP came after the Government announced a ban on the breed last week, but with an amnesty for existing owners as long as their pets were registered, neutered and muzzled when in public.
Government officials stressed yesterday that by requiring all owners to get their bully dogs neutered, the breed would simply die out.
However, Sir Robert Goodwill, chairman of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said Ministers may have to act more quickly.
He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘These dogs live well over 12 years and we can’t wait a decade to remove this threat.
MAULED TO DEATH: Ian Price, 52, who was killed by these suspected XL bullies (pictured below) in Staffordshire on Thursday
American XL Bully dogs will be banned in the UK by the end of the year
‘Imagine if you are living next door to someone with one of these dogs and you have young children.
‘Yes, it would be muzzled when the owner takes it out. But would you want one of these killer dogs next door for the next decade?’
On Friday, the Prime Minister branded XL bully dogs a ‘danger to our communities’ and vowed to bring in rules by the end of the year under the Dangerous Dogs Act to ban them. It came after a horrific incident 24 hours earlier when father-of-two Ian Price, 52, was mauled to death in a frenzied attack by two suspected bullies.
Days before, Ana Paun, 11, was hurt by an American bully – a type linked to ten deaths since 2021.
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey is to convene a meeting with experts to define the XL breed, which is said to have originated in the US in the 1980s when American pitbull terriers were crossed with Staffordshire terriers.
But Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said earlier this week that there would be an amnesty for existing owners. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘People that have these dogs – and some will be well socialised, well managed, well trained – you will need to register and take actions. Your dog will need to be neutered… muzzled when out in public and on a lead and insured. If you comply… you will be able to keep your dog.’
What is an American Bully XL and what makes it so dangerous?
American bullies are a relatively new breed, having originated in the 1980s.
They are mixed breed bulldogs, typically American pitbull terriers crossed American, English and Olde English bulldogs.
Despite their relative popularity in the UK, they are not officially registered as a breed by the UK Kennel Club, making it difficult to know exactly how many are in the country.
They are seen as ‘status symbols’ and are often purchased for their intimidating looks.
Though the bully XL is the most common, the dogs can also be bred with mastiffs and other larger dogs to make them bigger, XXL or even XXXL.
Controversial and illegal practices such as ear cropping are also carried out to make them appear more intimidating.
The males can weigh between 70 and 130 pounds of muscle bone and have enormous strength.
The ‘status symbol’ nature of the dogs has seen them become something of a weapon, purchased by people who want a thuggish and scary looking dog.
Despite their lack of official certification, there is also a booming market with puppies regularly sold on Facebook and through places like Gumtree for anywhere between £500 and £3,000.
However, experts are at pains to warn of their potentially dangerous nature, especially if their aggression is encouraged.
They descend from bull-baiting dogs and if they aren’t trained properly then their aggression could surface.
This could pose a real threat to humans, particularly children, and has been seen in several shocking recent deaths involving the dog.