7 May 2024
XL Bully Dogs

Owners whose dogs are dangerously out of control are already breaking the law, and the enforcement authorities have a full range of powers to apply penalties. Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, people can be imprisoned for up to 14 years, be disqualified from ownership, or their dangerous dogs can be euthanised. 

Following the rise in tragic dog attacks appearing to be driven by XL Bullies, the Government has taken decisive action to protect the public by adding the XL Bully type to the list of dogs prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act. As of 31 December 2023, it is illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon or allow XL Bully dogs to stray in England and Wales. XL Bully dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public, and they cannot be abandoned or allowed to stray. A failure to comply will be a criminal offence.

As of 1 February 2024, it has also become illegal to own an XL Bully dog if it is not registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs. There was a transitional period to ensure current owners of this breed had time to prepare for these new rules.

Owners who wished to legally keep their dogs were given until 31 January 2024 to register their dog on the Index of Exempted dogs and comply with the requirements. As part of the process, all owners were required to provide proof that their dog had been microchipped and neutered. 

As of 1 February 2024, owners without a Certificate of Exemption could receive a criminal record and an unlimited fine if they are found to be in possession of an XL Bully type, and their dog could be seized. Owners had the option to have their dog put to sleep rather than keeping them under the new conditions, with the Government paying a contribution of £200 per dog towards the costs associated with this.

I am assured that Ministers will continue to work closely with the police, canine and veterinary experts, and animal welfare groups, as these important measures are enforced.

Tenants and XL Bully Dogs -

I have noted your comments in relation to tenants and XL Bully dogs and am aware of a petition on Parliament’s website. I understand that when a petition has received 10,000 signatures, the Government will respond to the petition. I look forward to reading the response as and when the petition reaches this threshold. 

Those against the ban –

While I appreciate that you have strong views about this matter, I am aware that fatal and serious dog attacks rose sharply in 2023, and the XL Bully breed appears to have been disproportionately involved in this rise. The Government must balance the views of those who want to repeal or amend breed specific legislation with our responsibility to ensure that the public is protected from dog attacks. Given this rise in fatalities and other attacks, Ministers were clear that more decisive action was needed, aimed specifically at the XL Bully. The Government convened experts, including canine and veterinary experts, police, and animal welfare organisations to define the breed.

Defining an XL Bully –

I am aware that the definition of the XL Bully breed provides clear assessment criteria for owners and enforcement authorities and is a requirement under the Dangerous Dogs Act to deliver the ban. Dog owners should have used this official definition to check if their dog is an XL Bully. I understand that it is up to the owner or keeper to self-identify whether a dog may be an XL Bully. To check if a dog is an XL Bully, owners need to check the dog’s physical characteristics such as its size and height. The full definition can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/official-definition-of-an-xl-bully-dog/official-definition-of-an-xl-bully-dog

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recommended taking a precautionary approach. Therefore, if an owner was not sure if their dog was an XL Bully, they should have prepared for the ban on the XL Bully. This applied to puppies that may grow up to be an XL Bully. If owners wished to keep their dog after the ban comes into force, they should have applied for a Certificate of Exemption and met specific requirements, which include ensuring the dog is microchipped, neutered, kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public, and kept in a secure place so it cannot escape. The deadline for applying for a Certificate of Exemption was 31 January 2024. More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prepare-for-the-ban-on-xl-bully-dogs

Ages of XL Bully Dogs: Neutering -

If your dog was less than seven months old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 30 June 2025. If your dog was between seven and twelve months old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If your dog was older than one year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 30 June 2024. 

Cruelty towards and Abandoning of XL Bullies –

I share your concerns in response to recent stories of XL Bullies being abandoned, tortured and left for dead by their owners. There is no place in this country for animal cruelty, and we must ensure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law.

As mentioned earlier it is illegal to abandon XL Bullies in any capacity, and the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 provides one of the toughest sanctions in Europe for animal cruelty offences, enabling tougher prison sentences for the most serious perpetrators of animal cruelty, from the previous maximum of six months to up to five years.

If you believe that an animal is being harmed by an individual, I would urge you to report it to the police and the RSPCA who will be able to investigate this further.