Guidance

Ban on XL Bully dogs

The rules you must follow if you own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales.

Applies to England and Wales

It’s a criminal offence to own or possess an XL Bully dog in England and Wales unless you have a valid Certificate of Exemption.

It’s also an offence to:

  • sell an XL Bully dog
  • abandon an XL Bully dog or let it stray
  • give away an XL Bully dog
  • breed or breed from an XL Bully dog
  • have an XL Bully in public without a lead and muzzle

Applications for a Certificate of Exemption to keep an XL Bully dog have closed. New exemptions can only be authorised by a court order.

If you have applied for a Certificate of Exemption but not received it

If the authorities ask to see your Certificate of Exemption but you have not received it yet, you can show them evidence that you’ve applied.

Where possible, Defra will help you to complete an application if you:

  • paid the fee but did not send the application before midday on 31 January 2024
  • did not pay the fee but sent the application before midday on 31 January 2024

Defra may also be able to help if you made a mistake in your application such as providing an incorrect payment reference or start date for your insurance policy.

For help, email dogsindex@defra.gov.uk with:

  • your name
  • your postcode
  • the name of your dog

If you do not have a Certificate of Exemption

It’s against the law to keep an XL Bully dog without a Certificate of Exemption. If you think you have an XL Bully dog and you have not applied for a Certificate of Exemption, you should contact your local police force.

Read more about banned dogs.

If you have a Certificate of Exemption

For the life of the dog, you must:

  • keep the dog at the same address as the certificate holder (you can keep the dog at a different address for a maximum of 30 days in a 12-month period)
  • tell Defra if you permanently change address (you do not need to do this if the dog is temporarily kept at a different address, which is allowed for a maximum of 30 days in a 12-month period)
  • tell Defra if the dog dies or is exported
  • have third party public liability insurance for your dog and provide Defra with proof that it’s been renewed each year
  • keep the dog muzzled in public places – Defra recommends using a muzzle that does not inhibit the dog from panting, breathing or drinking
  • keep the dog on a lead in public places – the lead must be securely held by someone at least 16 years old
  • keep the dog in secure conditions that will stop it from escaping

When asked by a police constable or authorised local authority officer, you must also provide:

  • access to the dog to read its microchip
  • confirmation of suitable third party liability insurance within 5 days of their request
  • the Certificate of Exemption within 5 days of their request

If you do not follow the requirements, your dog will no longer be exempt from the ban and it could be taken by the police. New exemptions can only be authorised by a court order.

Third party public liability insurance

If you have a Certificate of Exemption for your XL Bully dog, you must have third party public liability insurance for your dog. This can be provided by Dogs Trust Membership.

The policy must:

  • be renewed annually for the life of the dog
  • be in the same name as the person named on the Certificate of Exemption

If you use a different insurance provider, you must check that the policy:

  • covers the policyholder for death or bodily injury to any person caused by the exempted dog
  • is suitable for a prohibited breed as defined under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

You must provide Defra with proof that you’ve renewed the insurance each year. Email your insurance renewal confirmation document to dogsindex@defra.gov.uk, or post it to:

Dogs Index 
PO Box 68250 
London 
SW1P 9XG

Neutering an XL Bully dog 

For your Certificate of Exemption to remain valid, you must arrange to have your XL Bully dog neutered. Male dogs must be castrated. Female dogs must be spayed.

If your dog was: 

  • less than 1 year old on 31 January 2024, you must provide Defra with proof of neutering on or before 31 December 2024
  • older than 1 year old on 31 January 2024, you must provide Defra with proof of neutering on or before 30 June 2024

You must use the confirmation of neutering form to tell Defra your dog has been neutered.

Defra recommends having your dog neutered as soon as possible so that you meet these deadlines. 

Microchips for dogs less than 8 weeks old 

If your dog was less than 8 weeks old when you applied for a Certificate of Exemption, you have until 31 March 2024 to give the microchip number to Defra.

Email the microchip number along with your dog’s index number to dogsindex@defra.gov.uk, or post to:

Dogs Index 
PO Box 68250 
London 
SW1P 9XG

You can find the dog index number on the Certificate of Exemption. 

Defra will send you a new Certificate of Exemption when you provide the microchip number.  

Find out how to get your dog microchipped.

Dogs certified as unfit for a microchip 

If your dog was unfit to be microchipped when you applied for a Certificate of Exemption, you must send a copy of the veterinary certificate to Defra by 31 March 2024. The certificate must show that your dog was certified as unfit to be microchipped at the time you applied.

You must then arrange to have your dog microchipped and provide the microchip number to Defra within 28 days of the expiry date of the veterinary certificate.

Email the veterinary certificate along with your dog’s index number to dogsindex@defra.gov.uk, or post to: 

Dogs Index 
PO Box 68250 
London 
SW1P 9XG

Replacement certificates

Defra will only issue a new certificate if your existing certificate is lost or if you change your name or address.

To get a replacement certificate, email dogsindex@defra.gov.uk

Withdraw a Certificate of Exemption

If you no longer think your dog is an XL Bully, you will be able to ask Defra to withdraw your certificate. Defra will provide more information about how to do this soon.   

Claiming compensation for euthanasia of an XL Bully dog

If your XL Bully dog was euthanised by a registered vet by 31 January 2024, you can claim £200 compensation towards the cost of euthanasia.

All claims must be received by 15 March 2024.

If your XL Bully dog was euthanised after 31 January, you cannot claim compensation.

Buying, selling or transferring XL Bully dogs 

It’s illegal to rehome, sell, buy, or transfer ownership of an XL Bully dog to another person. 

Stray and abandoned dogs 

It’s illegal to abandon an XL Bully dog or allow it to stray. 

If you find a stray or abandoned dog of any breed, you should contact your local council

Rehoming organisations

It’s illegal to rehome, sell or transfer ownership of XL Bully dogs. Rehoming organisations should not rehome XL Bully dogs. 

If you’re not sure whether a dog in your care may be considered an XL Bully, use our guide to check if a dog is an XL Bully.

If you think you have an XL Bully dog in your care and you did not apply for a Certificate of Exemption, you should contact your local police force.

Compensation for rehoming organisations

Rehoming organisations can claim £100 towards the cost of euthanasia for dogs that were euthanised in their care by 31 January 2024. Compensation must be claimed by 15 March 2024 using the VCE02 form.

Vets

Owners of XL Bully dogs who chose to have their dog euthanised by a registered vet by 31 January 2024 can claim compensation towards the cost. Owners must apply for compensation by 15 March 2024.

If an XL Bully owner brings their dog to be euthanised after 31 January 2024, they will not be able to claim compensation. If the euthanasia was performed after 31 January 2024, vets should not fill in or sign the compensation form.

Vets may also be asked to confirm an XL Bully dog has been neutered.

Vets will not be expected to report XL Bully dogs and their owners to the police.

Published 1 February 2024
Last updated 16 February 2024 + show all updates
  1. Where possible, Defra will help you to complete an application if you paid the fee but did not send the application before midday on 31 January 2024, or did not pay the fee but sent the application before midday on 31 January. Defra may also be able to help if you made a mistake in your application.

  2. First published.