Given the recent governmental announcement, XL Bully dogs will be added to the banned breeds list within the Dangerous Dogs Act. They will join the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro, meaning they will have an abundance of legislation surrounding their existence. As this is an incredibly emotionally charged situation, it is easy to get lost within the copious amount of information, and misinformation, out there. This article will try to attempt to solve this issue, and surmise several months of events into a digestible word count.
Table of contents
- What is an XL Bully?
- Why is XL Bully being banned?
- So, what does it say in law?
- Stage one: to be introduced on the 31st December 2023.
- Stage two: to be introduced on the 1st February 2024.
- How will XL Bully dogs be identified?
- So, what should you do now?
- What if I don’t want to own my XL Bully any more?
- What happens if I don’t comply with this legislation?
- How does the veterinary profession feel about the ban?
- A summary of what everyone can, and cannot do.
- Further Reading:
What is an XL Bully?
A sensible place to start would be to define what exactly this breed is. The XL Bully, or the American XL Bully, is a relatively recent variation of the American Bully breed. The other variations include micro, pocket, standard and classic. The exact genetics of the breed is somewhat up for debate, but the American Bully is generally understood as a cross between the American Pit Bull Terrier (already a member of the banned breeds list) with other breeds such as the American Staffordshire Terrier and American Bulldog. The XL, as the name suggests, refers to its considerable muscular stature. The exact XL Bully breed definition, lasting several pages, can be viewed on the government website.
Why is XL Bully being banned?
Over the past several years there has been a rise in the number of incidents involving the XL Bully. Regrettably, several of these incidents have led to both adult and children fatalities. In response to this, on the 15th September 2023, the government announced the XL Bully will be added to the banned breeds list within section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
So, what does it say in law?
On the 31st October 2023, the government announced the XL Bully ban would be introduced gradually via two stages, allowing owners to gradually adapt to the new laws.
Stage one: to be introduced on the 31st December 2023.
From this date it will be a criminal offence to:
- Sell, abandon and/or give away an XL Bully dog. Owners should also ensure their XL Bully cannot accidentally escape from their premises.
- Breed from an XL Bully dog.
- Have an XL Bully dog in public without a lead and muzzle.
It is also highlighted that XL Bully dogs need to be microchipped. However, as it is a legal requirement for all dogs, irrespective of breed, to be microchipped (according to The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015), this is not an XL Bully specific law.
Stage two: to be introduced on the 1st February 2024.
From this date it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully in England and Wales unless you have a Certificate of Exemption.
Additionally, all XL Bully dogs need to be neutered. The following is taken straight from the gov.uk website:
- “If your dog is less than one year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024.”
- “If your dog is older than one year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 30 June 2024.”
It is advisable that you call your vets and book in your XL Bully to be neutered as soon as possible in order to comply with these deadlines. Once neutered, or if your XL Bully is already neutered, you need to ask your vet who carried out the procedure to fill in a “proof of neutering” form and send this to the Index of Exempted Dogs at Defra. If you are unsure if your dog has been neutered, your vet should examine her/him and may recommend further investigation to be sure.
What is a Certificate of Exemption?
If you wish to continue owning an XL Bully following the ban, you must apply for a Certificate of Exemption which will allow you to continue legally owning your dog. Your XL Bully will be included in the Index of Exempt Dogs and it is valid for his/her entire lifespan. Every XL Bully is assessed on an individual basis; they are only allowed to be included if the court decides they are not a danger to the public. Owners must comply by all the legislation listed in this article and additionally should adhere to the following:
- You must insure your XL Bully through the Dogs Trust against him/her injuring human beings.
- You must be able to show their Certificate of Exemption to a police officer or a council dog warden when required, either at the time or within 5 days.
- And you must inform the Index of Exempt Dogs if you change home address, and upon the death of your dog.
It is worth noting that you cannot currently apply for a Certificate of Exemption, so keep checking the gov.uk website for updates.
How will XL Bully dogs be identified?
By a trained Dog Legislation Officer (DLO). These professionals are part of the police who are trained in canine law and identifying banned dog breeds. It is important to highlight here that banned dogs are identified via physical characteristics, not via genetic tests or parentage. The DLO will use their training along with the official governmental breed definition of an XL Bully to visually identify the banned dog breed. If you are unsure if your dog is an XL Bully, for example you rescued them from a shelter, then the government advises you to err on the side of caution and follow the requirements for this dog type.
So, what should you do now?
- Become familiar with every bit of legislation around your XL Bully, especially deadlines.
- Start muzzle and lead training. The PDSA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross have extensive advice, resources and learning opportunities on such training, to enable owners to efficiently and safely train their dog. (links to these are included at the end of this article).
- Book in your XL Bully to be neutered at your vets.
- Seek support. This is a difficult time for XL Bully owners and it is incredibly understandable if you feel overwhelmed or worried. There are of course professionals to speak to, such as trained counsellors, and there are classes, for example run by Battersea, aimed to support owners alongside training and behaviour tips.
- Keep up to date with developments within this legislation via the government website, for example when you can apply for a Certificate of Exemption and how to claim compensation.
What if I don’t want to own my XL Bully any more?
Unfortunately, but understandably, this is a common question. It is an incredibly challenging time for owners and vets alike. And it is easy to get overwhelmed and disconcerted by the amount of rules to follow and steps to take to keep everyone safe. Furthermore, being surrounded by a negative public perception of the breed makes things even more difficult.
The official answer to this question is euthanasia. Your vet will be incredibly empathetic if you choose this option. And they will understand you did not take this decision lightly. If you are 100% sure that this is the only option for your particular circumstance, then your vet will help you. The government has stated they will provide owners compensation for this. And will provide further information on how to apply for this shortly.
What happens if I don’t comply with this legislation?
In short, you would be breaking the law. If you break any of the rules included in the banned breed section of the Dangerous Dogs Act, you are at risk of having a criminal record, monetary fine and/or prison sentence. The police can also seize, and subsequently euthanise, your dog.
How does the veterinary profession feel about the ban?
It is fair to say that not all vets agree with the ban. Although exact opinions vary, as they do with all ethically challenging situations, there is an understanding that there is a complete lack of evidence supporting breed specific legislation in reducing the incidence of dog attacks. Instead, veterinary organisations such as the British Veterinary Association, and animal charities, including the PDSA, are encouraging the government to implement and enforce tighter legislation around dog ownership and breeding; as well as increasing dog incident monitoring and research.
Additionally, vets aren’t happy about the prospect of euthanising healthy dogs; this goes against our fundamental ethics of prioritising the health and welfare of animals committed to our care (RCVS Code of Conduct). As the ban is currently in motion, we as a profession are complying with the new laws; whilst still working hard to ensure the welfare of the XL Bully, and all other dog breeds, is prioritised. And we are doing all we can to reduce the incidence of events which led to this ban occurring in the future.
A summary of what everyone can, and cannot do.
|XL Bully owners
|Keep their XL Bully upon a successful application for a Certificate of Exemption.Upon receiving a successful Certificate of Exception once applications have been released:Walk their XL Bully on a lead whilst muzzled in public.Take their XL Bully to the vets for e.g. health checks and vaccinations, whilst muzzled and on the lead.Take their XL Bully to the vets to be neutered, whilst muzzled and on the lead.
|Abandon, sell or give away their XL Bully.Rehome their XL Bully or surrender him/her to a shelter.Continue to own their XL Bully without a Certificate of Exemption.
|Examine your XL Bully, if safe to do so, whilst muzzled and on a lead.Neuter your XL Bully, whilst muzzled and on a lead.Fill in and subsequently send proof of neutering forms to Defra.Physically identify an XL Bully.Fill in and subsequently send neutering compensation forms to Defra (when information has been released on how to do this).Euthanise your XL Bully.
Vets also will…Be empathetic and understanding to your situation.
|Rehome your XL Bully.
Vets also are not…Expected to report XL Bully dogs and their owners to the police.
This is clearly a complicated and tricky time to be an XL Bully owner. It is also an equally complicated and tricky time to be a small animal vet. Both parties are subject to a myriad of new rules and legislation, all amid a sea of different, often opposing, opinions. Everyone deserves a little patience, understanding and empathy during this time. Owners should ensure they are 100% clear with the legislation and deadlines well ahead of time. If they are ever unsure, they should consult the government website or ask their vet.
- Official definition of an XL Bully dog – GOV.UK
- Controlling your dog in public: Banned dogs – GOV.UK
- Blue Cross – Dogs and Muzzle Training
- Dogs Trust – How to train your dog to wear a muzzle
- PDSA – How to muzzle train your dog
- XL Bully Ban: What you need to know – PDSA
- Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) and dog control – British Veterinary Association
- Guidance: Applying the XL Bully breed type conformation standard – GOV.UK
- Coverage of XL Bully announcement – Defra in the media
- Prepare for the ban on XL Bully dogs – GOV.UK
- American Bully XL ban – Battersea Dogs & Cats Home