Concerns have been raised about how Scotland monitors dangerous dogs in the wake of an influx of XL Bullies after the First Minister said the country's system for doing so was "very controlled" and "quite tight".

Humza Yousaf insisted last week there was no need for a ban on the breed north of the border because of existing controls, though yesterday insisted Scotland was "not a safe haven" for the animals and a ban was still under review.

Dogs from the breed have been behind a number of fatal attacks on people, including young children, and have been banned in England and Wales.

READ MORE: Scotland 'not safe haven' for XL Bullies says Yousaf after 'influx'

Just ahead of the ban coming into force there were reports of one breeder bringing 33 XL Bully dogs to Scotland.

"We have a very controlled and quite tight regime when it comes to the management of animals, control of dogs, and that is something that is quite unique in Scotland compared to other parts of the UK,” the First Minister said on Friday.

The Herald: Former Scottish Labour MSP Jenny Marra. Photo Andrew Cowan/the Scottish Parliament.

But over the weekend the former Labour MSP Jenny Marra, who led a Holyrood inquiry in the last parliament into how laws over dog control were operating, disputed the First Minister's claims of a controlled regime.

READ MORE: XL Bullies Scotland: Scottish SPCA issues new advice

There are two pieces of legislation relating to the control of dogs in Scotland, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010.

"Very concerned to read First Minister ⁦Humza Yousaf comments today that we have a “strict” and “controlled regime” on dog control in Scotland. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I led ⁦the Scottish Parliament's most recent inquiry on Dog Control. 

"We found that dog control law in Scotland was not fit for purpose and needed urgent review. We found that the 2010 Act was not effective and parts had not even been implemented like the Scottish Dog Control Database," she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

READ MORE: SNP urged to act as XL bully dogs to be banned in England and Wales

She added: "Hugely worrying was the 1991 Act’s requirement for “reasonable apprehension” which witnesses called the “one free bite rule”. Dogs cannot be apprehended unless they have proven themselves to be dangerous, effectively. We recommended that this be reviewed. Has it?

"Of course the “one free bite rule” now comes crashing into reality. With the migration of dogs into Scotland this law seems far too weak and unsafe. I am asking Humza Yousaf to please read the post legislative scutiny committee report from 2019 and see if he still thinks his laws are safe enough."

Ms Marra pointed to a series of extracts from the committee's findings.

These included evidence from witnesses which suggests that only the most serious of breaches of dog control notices (DCNs) appear to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

The committee said that as a consequence a number of local authorities have called for the 2010 Act to be amended to make provision for fixed penalty notices to be available to local authorities in the event of a breach of a DCN. 

The committee also recommended that local authorities consider using their by-law powers to create secure play areas for children in public parks from which dogs are prohibited and that local authorities should use their by-law making powers to create designated enclosed areas in public parks to provide places where dogs can be off lead and places where all dogs must be on a lead.

"The use of by-laws in this way is currently best practice. However, the committee considers that it should become standard practice," the report said.

It also highlighted one of the difficulties in bringing a prosecution against owners of dogs that attack people.

"The committee understands that in order for case to be successfully prosecuted under the 1991 Act, it is necessary to prove that there was “reasonable apprehension” that the dog would bite someone. This has led to a perception that a “one free bite” rule exists," said the report.

"The committee considers that it is unacceptable that a severe attack by a dog on an individual might go unpunished because of the absence of any prior bad behaviour by the dog. The committee also believes that the severity of the attack and the injuries sustained should be prioritised over the requirement for reasonable apprehension. Therefore, the committee considers that the Scottish Government’s review should consider alternatives to the requirement for “reasonable apprehension” as provided for in the 1991 Act."

The report also noted that a licensing scheme for dog owners was considered under a Scottish Government’s 2013 consultation.

"The Scottish Government’s review should consider the introduction of a licensing scheme for dog owners and, as part of that review, consider dog licensing schemes in other jurisdictions such as Ireland and Sweden," the report said.

The UK Government banned the breeding, selling or abandonment on the XL Bully dogs south of the border on December 31.

On February 1, additional restrictions will apply with the dogs being made illegal in England and Wales, with exemptions for pets who are registered, neutered, microchipped, and have a muzzle and lead on in public.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “To help prevent dog attacks from happening in the first place, the dog control notice regime gives all 32 local authorities across Scotland powers to intervene if owners are not keeping their dogs, whatever the breed, under control by imposing conditions through a civil dog control notice.

“We strongly support the use of the dog control notice regime for any dogs out of control and local authorities should be using their powers as needed. The Scottish Government continues to work with Police Scotland, local authorities, the SSPCA and other relevant interests to help keep communities safe from the small minority of irresponsible dog owners and their dangerous dogs.”