Protesters are set to march down Southend High Street today after new restrictions on the XL bully breed were introduced.

Dog lovers, who are devastated by the thought of “innocent animals” being victimised or put down as a result of the ban, will be joining the “Refuse to Euthanise Bully’s” protest on Saturday in unison with a march in Manchester. 

It comes after breeding, selling or abandoning XL bully dogs became illegal as of Sunday, as the breed must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public.

Hadleigh resident Debra Lawrence, 65, who is helping to organise the march, previously told the Echo: “I feel strongly and outraged by this as a dog lover because it’s putting healthy dogs down.

“It’s a crime against humanity and a ban is beyond ridiculous.

“XL bully owners who are responsible are now having to face impacts caused by those who are being irresponsible and are treating their dogs as weapons.

“What needs to happen is these irresponsible owners should be put in prison and banned from owning a dog, and the dog should be given the opportunity to be retrained with a good trainer.

“However, I do agree with the point that all dogs should be on a lead as that’s responsible ownership.

“I hope all dog lovers come [today] in solidarity with us.”

The march is taking place from 1pm until 4pm on Saturday, and a petition will be available to sign.

XL Bully owners are being urged to apply for a certificate of exemption for current pets before the January 31 deadline.

From February 1, it will be criminal offence to own an XL bully dog in England and Wales without a certificate.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said the Government had met its pledge to take “quick and decisive action” following a series of attacks, with one man dying after being savaged by one of the dogs earlier this year.

But the RSPCA said the measures were “not the answer” and warned of a “huge risk” that rescue centres and vets will be unable to cope with a likely surge in demand.