What XL Bully dog owners, vets and rehoming centres need to do to prepare for the ban.
Applies to England and Wales
Following a concerning rise in attacks and fatalities caused by XL Bully dogs, the government has added this breed to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
To help current owners adapt to the new laws, these changes will come into force in 2 stages.
From 31 December 2023 it will be against the law to:
- sell an XL Bully dog
- abandon an XL Bully dog or let it stray
- give away an XL Bully dog
- breed from an XL Bully dog
- have an XL Bully in public without a lead and muzzle
From 1 February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales unless your dog has a Certificate of Exemption.
Read Keeping an XL Bully dog to find out how to get a Certificate of Exemption.
Check if your dog is an XL Bully dog
Use the Official definition of an XL Bully dog to check if your dog may be an XL Bully. This involves checking the dog’s physical characteristics such as its size and height.
Defra recommends taking a precautionary approach. If you’re not sure if you have an XL Bully dog, you should comply with all new requirements for this dog type. This includes puppies that may grow up to be an XL Bully dog.
The ban only applies to XL Bully dogs. There are other established breeds, such as those recognised by the UK Kennel Club, that may meet some of the characteristics of the XL Bully breed type. These are not within scope of the ban.
Keeping an XL Bully dog
If you want to keep your XL Bully dog after the ban, you must apply for a Certificate of Exemption by 31 January 2024.
To get a Certificate of Exemption you must:
Get third party public liability insurance cover for your dog.
Neuter your dog permanently if it is not already neutered. Read Neutering an XL Bully for when you must have your dog neutered. A vet must confirm if your dog is already neutered.
Pay the £92.40 fee for each dog you want to keep. The fee is not refundable.
To keep an XL Bully dog it must be:
- kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public
- kept in a secure place so it cannot escape
As the owner, you must also:
- be over 16 years old
- take out third party public liability insurance against your dog injuring other people
- be able to show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or a council dog warden, either at the time or within 5 days
Third party public liability insurance
You must have third party public liability insurance for your XL Bully dog. The cover must start no later than 1 February 2024. This can be provided by Dogs Trust Membership. The policy must renew annually for the life of the dog.
If you use a different insurance provider, you must check 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 the start date of your insurance policy when you apply for a Certificate of Exemption. Your insurance provider can tell you the start date.
You do not need to provide the insurance policy number or any other documents from your insurance provider to apply.
You must make sure your dog is fitted with a microchip and registered on a database by the time it’s 8 weeks old. Find out how to get your dog microchipped.
If you’re not sure if your dog is microchipped, you should ask your vet.
Dogs less than 8 weeks old
If your dog is less than 8 weeks old when you apply for a Certificate of Exemption, you’ll have until 31 March 2024 to give the microchip number to Defra. Email the microchip number to email@example.com or post it to:
PO Box 68250
Defra will send you a new Certificate of Exemption when you provide the microchip number.
Dogs certified as unfit for a microchip
If a vet certifies that your dog is unfit to have a microchip for a period of time, you must send a copy of the veterinary certificate to Defra by 31 March 2024. 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 to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to:
PO Box 68250
Muzzles and leads
From 31 December 2023 XL Bully dogs must wear a muzzle and be kept on a lead when in a public place.
You should start to train your dog to wear a muzzle when in public and to walk on a lead before 31 December 2023. Animal welfare organisations have developed helpful resources and free online learning to support owners to muzzle train their dogs. Read the training from:
Neutering an XL Bully dog
You must arrange to have your XL Bully dog neutered through castration in the case of a male dog, or through spaying in the case of a female dog. If your dog is:
- less than 1 year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024
- older than 1 year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 30 June 2024
Defra recommend having your dog neutered as soon as possible so that you meet these deadlines.
Confirmation of neutering
Once your XL Bully dog has been neutered, you and your vet will need to fill in the confirmation of neutering form. Your vet should then return the form to Defra.
If your dog has already been neutered, you and your vet must fill in the confirmation of neutering form. The vet should return the form to Defra.
If the vet is unable to return the form, the owner of the dog can return it to Defra.
Your current vet may have to check that neutering has taken place if:
- the dog was neutered by a different vet or at a different practice
- you’re unsure whether your dog is neutered
You may have to pay a fee for the vet to do this. Alternatively, you may be able to contact your previous vet to fill in the form.
Giving up an XL Bully dog to be euthanised
If you choose not to keep your XL Bully dog, you should take it to be euthanised at a registered vet practice by 31 January 2024.
You can claim £200 compensation towards the costs. You and your vet will need to fill in a compensation form to make a claim. You must apply by 15 March 2024.
Buying, selling or transferring XL Bully dogs
From 31 December 2023 it will be illegal to rehome, sell, buy, or transfer ownership of an XL Bully dog to another person.
If you are concerned that someone is trying to sell you a XL Bully after this date, visit the Petfished website to find out how to spot the signs of a deceitful pet seller.
Breeding XL Bully dogs
It will be a criminal offence to breed XL Bully dogs from 31 December 2023. This includes:
- breeding from an XL Bully dog
- allowing for an XL Bully dog to be bred from any combination of other dogs
It will not be an offence to allow a litter of puppies that have already been conceived to be born. If the puppies are born after 31 December 2023, it will be an offence to sell them or to rehome them.
Defra recommends breeders should stop all XL Bully breeding activity now as it will be a criminal offence to sell, transfer, exchange, gift or advertise these dogs from 31 December 2023.
There is a 9-week period until the ban on selling comes into force to allow puppies that were bred before this legislation was introduced to be legally sold. Puppies must not be sold before they are 8 weeks old.
Owners who purchased a puppy before 31 December 2023, which is less than 8 weeks old at that point, will be able to collect it legally when it’s 8 weeks old.
Stray and abandoned dogs
From 31 December 2023, it will be 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.
Rescue and rehoming centres
From 31 December 2023, it will be illegal to rehome, sell or transfer ownership of XL Bully dogs. From this date, rescue and rehoming centres should not rehome XL Bully dogs.
If you’re not sure whether a dog in your care may be considered an XL Bully, use the official definition of an XL Bully. Rescue and rehoming centres should consider whether the dogs in their care may be XL Bully dogs.
Rehoming centres can decide to:
- keep an XL Bully and apply for a Certificate of Exemption
- euthanise an XL Bully
Rescue and rehoming organisations can claim a £100 contribution towards any euthanasia cost. Compensation must be claimed by 15 March 2024.
Vets may be asked by XL Bully owners to euthanise their dog. Owners can claim £200 per dog. Rescue and rehoming organisations centres can claim £100. The euthanasia must be performed by 31 January 2024. Owners must apply for compensation by 15 March 2024.
Vets may also be asked to confirm an XL Bully dog has been neutered.
It’s the responsibility of owners to:
- use the official definition and guidance to determine if their dog is within the scope of the ban
- make a declaration as part of their claim for compensation
Vets should be able to recognise dogs as being XL Bully type dogs for the purposes of undertaking euthanasia.
Vets will not be expected to report XL Bully dogs and their owners to the police.
- read the official definition of an XL Bully dog
- read the RCVS Code of Conduct for the euthanasia of animals
- contact RCVS and the Veterinary Defence Society for queries about professional obligations for euthanasia
- tell owners about the restrictions on XL Bully dogs that start on 31 December 2023 and what they need to do to either keep or give up a dog