Navigating the XL Bully Ban: Implications

In a recent development, the UK government has implemented a ban on XL Bully breeds. What does this mean for owners and vet professionals within the industry? How we work together to navigate this?

In this article, we will cover:

  • What help is there for owners with regards to neutering their XL bully dogs?
  • Legal challenges
  • What is an XL Bully?
  • Will all XL Bully dogs have to be put to sleep?
  • What are the new rules?
  • What does this mean for the veterinary industry?
  • What other breeds are banned?

The ban, starting from 1 February 2024, means that ownership will be illegal until exemption has been applied for and granted.

Since 31 December 2023, it has been illegal to sell, breed from, abandon, or give away an XL bully. They must also be on a lead and muzzled when in public.

This ban has sparked concerns and discussions within the veterinary community. Understanding the intricacies of this ban is crucial for both pet owners and professionals in the industry.

What help is there for owners with regards to neutering their XL bullies?

Battersea, Blue Cross and the RSPCA have announced plans to provide assistance for owners who have already completed the other steps necessary to keep their dogs after the forthcoming ban is implemented.

Under the Government’s plans, owners can claim £200 compensation towards the cost of euthanising an XL bully – an amount critics view as insufficient.

However, there is no equivalent support for neutering or obtaining confirmation that the procedure had been carried out previously.

The charities’ plan will allow for up to £250 to be provided towards the cost of neutering an individual eligible dog.

Due to open on 5 February, the scheme will be managed through the Blue Cross group’s Veterinary Care Fund. RSPCA vouchers will be provided to help with urgent cases in the interim period.

Owners will also need to prove they have completed the other required steps to exempt their dog from the ownership ban.

It is envisaged that practices would apply for the funding on behalf of their clients online, with payments being made directly to them.

A joint letter, signed by RSPCA chief vet Caroline Allen, her Blue Cross counterpart Paul Manktelow, and Battersea operations director Lucy Hastings, said:

“While we understand the pressure that practices are under at the moment, we would be grateful if you could support owners in need by meeting the requirements of the exemption process and help keep pets and their people together.

“As of 31 December, rescues can no longer rehome XL bully type dogs, so while we understand that practices and vets may not want to euthanise healthy animals, we are afraid that rescue organisations can no longer help these dogs.

“We would ask that you consider what is likely to be in the best welfare interests of the dog. We are now seeing an increase in abandonments, putting even greater pressure on our teams who are dealing with the heartbreaking reality for dogs they have been caring for.”

Those concerns have been further highlighted after a dog, believed to have been an XL bully, was found dead in Carshalton on 30 December. RSPCA officers have appealed for information about the incident.

Legal challenges to the XL bully ban

An attempt to obtain an injunction was rejected by the High Court shortly before Christmas. A campaign group, Don’t Ban Me Licence Me, is seeking a judicial review of the ban. A further hearing is expected to take place later this month.

In a separate case, a temporary injunction has been granted within the rescue sector. The injunction prevents dogs moved into the sector after 31 October 2023, frombeing euthanised, until a further hearing takes place.

Meanwhile, the BVA said it has yet to receive a formal response from Defra to its letter calling for the neutering deadline to be extended to June 2025 for dogs that are aged seven months or less when the ownership ban is implemented. The proposal has also been supported by the DEFRA select committee.

What is an XL Bully?

XL Bully breeds, often characterized by their distinctive appearance of a large head and muscular build, are now subject to specific categorisations by the UK government.

While there are other established breeds that may meet some of the characteristics of the XL Bully breed type, these are not within scope of the ban. The ban only applies to XL Bully dogs.

A suspected XL Bully breed type does not need to fit the physical description perfectly. If a dog meets the minimum height measurements and a substantial number of these characteristics, it could be considered an XL Bully breed type. This is the case even if the dog was not sold as an XL Bully or is a crossbreed that looks more like XL Bully dogs than any other type of dog.

Characteristics (for more information, see the government website):

  • Height: adult male from 20in (51 cm) at the withers; adult female from 19in (48cm) at the withers
  • Coat: Glossy, smooth, close, single
  • Head: Heavy, large and broad
  • Muzzle: Blocky or slightly squared to fall away below the eyes
  • Bite: Level,. Where the dog’s front teeth meet tight
  • Face: wrinkles often prominent
  • Nose: large with well opened nostrils; nose often one third of head length
  • Body: Heavily-muscled with a broad, deep chest
  • Lower legs: Staight and robust
  • Back legs (hindquarters): Strong mucle development
  • Waist (loin): Short and firm between the last rib and hips

Will all XL Bully dogs have to be put to sleep?

The UK’s chief veterinary officer clarified there wouldn’t be a cull of the breed.

Instead, owners can register their pets on the Index of Exempted Dogs for a fee. Dogs not on the Index may be subject to euthanisation.

Owners must follow certain rules before a dog can be granted an exemption.

What are the new rules for XL Bully dog owners?

The new rules and regulations outline stringent guidelines for owners of XL Bully breeds, necessitating compliance to ensure the welfare of both the dogs and the public. XL Bully dogs do not strictly fall under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991). We are currently in a transition period.

Owners must:

  • Apply for a Certificate of Exemption to keep their XL Bully dog. If the following rules are followed exemption may be granted. The dog would be registered into the Index of Exempted Dogs.
  • Have third party public liability insurance for their XL Bully dog. They must provide confirmation of such to a police constable or authorised local authority officer within 5 days of their request. The cover must start no later than 1 February 2024. The policy must:
    • cover the policyholder for death or bodily injury to any person caused by the exempted dog
    • be suitable for a prohibited breed as defined under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
  • Neuter their XL Bully dog. The vet should fill in a confirmation of neutering form and return this to Defra. If the dog is:
    • less than 1 year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024
    • 1 year or older on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 30 June 2024
  • Microchip their dog.
  • Keep the dog muzzled and on a lead in public places. Muzzling must adequately prevent biting, and someone at least 16 years old must hold the lead.

Owners must also:

  • Keep the dog at the same address as the certificate holder, except for a maximum of 30 days in a year.
  • Notify the Index of any change of address.
  • Notify the Index of the dog’s death or export.
  • Keep the dog in sufficiently secure conditions to prevent the dog’s escape.
  • Provide access for reading the dog’s microchip upon request by a police constable or authorised local authority officer.
  • Provide the Certificate of Exemption to a police constable or authorised local authority officer within 5 days of their request.
  • Provide microchip number by 31 March 2024, if not given at time of application.

The Scottish Government has informed the UK Government that Scotland will not adopt the new regulations. Scotland will have a commitment to a “proportionate approach”, focusing on issuing dog control notices to owners whose pets are not properly managed.

What does this mean for the veterinary industry?

The ban holds significant implications for the veterinary industry, as professionals must adapt to new challenges and responsibilities.

Veterinarians play a crucial role in educating pet owners about the ban, assisting with breed identification, and guiding them through the necessary steps for compliance to the new rules.

They should actively participate in raising awareness within their communities, providing guidance to owners, and advocating for the well-being of all dogs, regardless of breed.

By staying informed about the ban’s intricacies, veterinary professionals can contribute to a safer environment for both pets and the public. As the XL Bully ban takes effect, collaboration between pet owners and veterinary professionals becomes paramount.

What bans are in place for other breeds?

 The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 already bans the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro. Backing, selling, giving away, or abandoning these types of dogs is illegal


Gardener Llewelyn report on industry-related news and events in a neutral capacity. The goal of this is to inform industry stakeholders. Any views or quotations from guests or third-parties in our content do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisation, its affiliates, or employees.