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Bransgore XL bully owner Sue Brough urges New Forest residents to say hello to Xena and keep an open mind on the breed in wake of government ban

An XL bully owner has described the hardship and emotional turmoil she has faced in the wake of new government restrictions on the breed.

Sue Brough, from Bransgore, says she wants people to come and say hello to 19-month-old Xena and find out for themselves what “big, friendly softies” the breed is.

From 31st December all XL bullies were required to be kept on a lead and muzzled in public. From 1st February it will be illegal to own one without an exemption certificate.

Sue Brough with Xena and daughter Lucy. Right, Xena with her friend, chihuahua Morgan
Sue Brough with Xena and daughter Lucy. Right, Xena with her friend, chihuahua Morgan

Weighing in at 40kgs, Xena now has to be registered as a “dangerous” breed with special insurance to comply with the new rules.

“It galled me to do it, but I’ve had to register Xena as dangerous,” Sue told the A&T. “Shortly after moving to the Forest a couple of years ago I tried joining a Facebook dog walking group, but I was later removed from it because a number of other members don’t like the breed.

Xena’s casual approach to personal space
Xena’s casual approach to personal space

“I sat and cried, which is not like me at all, but I was crying for Xena.

“The Forest is such a friendly place and we have some amazing neighbours, but I was upset because Xena is still a puppy – how can people judge her just on the type of dog she is?”

Xena is a ‘big softie’ says Sue
Xena is a ‘big softie’ says Sue

Sue added: “When we go out, we can’t walk more than three steps without people stopping to say hello and how lovely she is.

“We often have kids knocking at the door to come and say hello to her.

“A very small minority have a negative view of XLs but the vast majority of people have been great to us and Xena, but it’s still been a hard time.”

Xena in her muzzle
Xena in her muzzle

Sue had to have Xena spayed early to comply with the rules or risk having her taken away by the authorities. Other rules Sue now has to follow include registering Xena for special insurance and having to carry a Dog Trust owner’s card.

She continued: “Once you register an XL bully as a ‘dangerous’ dog you can no longer get regular pet insurance.

“I can afford to pay for the special insurance and muzzles, but it’s still been a bit of a sacrifice.

Xena with her friend Morgan the chihuahua
Xena with her friend Morgan the chihuahua

“I can’t imagine what it’s like for families that can’t afford all this – who have the most beautiful dogs taken away from them just to be put to sleep.”

Sue is now looking to form a group of fellow XL bully owners in the area so they can meet up regularly and let their pets play, walk and socialise together.

She added: “Most of the muzzles out there are too small for XL bullies, especially when they run because they cannot open their mouths fully to breathe properly.

Watch Xena being chased by her friend Morgan the chihuahua

“We now have to pay to take Xena to a private field so she can run off the lead.

“My husband has taken Xena out to the beach before, in her muzzle, and has heard people saying, ‘She shouldn't be here’.

“All these restrictions on XL bullies make it hard to socialise them, which is so important for their development.

“I feel it’s my duty now to show people what XL bullies like Xena are really like – they’re big, friendly softies.”

Sue’s daughter Lucy, who suffers regular seizures due to a medical condition, added: “Xena is the best therapy dog.

“The fits I suffer can make me grab and hold on to Xena really tightly at times but she just sits with me and deals with it.

“She's a comfort and she’s always there for me.”

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