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Dog that mauled toddler to death was a legal American Bully XL

Metro logo Metro 25/03/2022 Sabrina Johnson
Neighbours tried to save Bella-Rae in the moments after the attack (Picture: PA/Getty) © Provided by Metro Neighbours tried to save Bella-Rae in the moments after the attack (Picture: PA/Getty)

The dog that mauled a 17-month old girl to death was not a banned breed police have revealed.

Bella-Rae Birch died in hospital after the deadly attack which took place in her home in the Blackbrook area of St Helens, Merseyside, at 3.50pm on Monday.

The family had bought the dog just one week before the attack.

Merseyside Police said tests showed the animal, which was destroyed following the attack, was an American bully XL.

The force said the breed was legal and not subject to any prohibitions under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

There are currently four dog breeds that are banned in the UK; Pitbull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

Neighbours on Bidston Avenue described trying to save the ‘beautiful’ toddler after hearing her parents’ screams.

In a statement released on Tuesday, her family thanked the community for their support.

The attack has rocked the St Helens community (Picture: PA) © Provided by Metro The attack has rocked the St Helens community (Picture: PA)

They said: ‘We would ask that we are now allowed some space and time to try and come to terms with the tragic loss of our much-loved Bella-Rae.

‘She will be sadly missed but never forgotten.’

Following the attack, Detective Inspector Lisa Milligan said: ‘This is a tragic incident and our thoughts are with the child’s family at this devastating time.

‘The little girl’s parents and wider family are absolutely devastated and our specialist family liaison officers are providing them with support at this horrendous time.

‘Whilst we are in the very early stages of the investigation into this extremely tragic incident we can confirm that the dog was only bought by the family a week ago and officers are working to identify the previous owners of the dog concerned and establish its history.’

Police inquiries into Bella-Rae’s death are ongoing and the family is being supported by specialist officers, a spokesperson said.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act it is illegal to own one of four breeds, Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentinos and Fila Brazilieros.

The law prohibits the breeding, sale, exchange, advertising, giving away or abandoning of any of the types of dogs mentioned in the bill.

It was introduced in 1991 following a number of high profile dog attacks but has proved controversial because it focuses on a dog’s appearance rather than an individual animal’s behaviour.

The act affects all dog owners – as under the law it is illegal for a dog to be ‘out of control’ or to bite or attack someone.

The legislation also makes it an offence if a person is worried or afraid (‘reasonable apprehension’) that a dog may bite them. 

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