New laws banning XL Bully-type dogs in England and Wales have been laid in Parliament, as the government adds the breed to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Under the new rules, which come into force from 31 December, it will be illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon or allow XL Bully dogs to stray in England and Wales.
From this date, the breed must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public. The government is recommending that owners of XL Bullies are recommended to start training their dog to wear a muzzle and to walk on a lead ahead of the legal restrictions coming into force.
From 1 February 2024, it will then become illegal to own an XL Bully dog if it is not registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs.
As part of the process, the definition of the ‘XL Bully’ breed type has also been published. This follows meetings of an expert group, convened by Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey and made up of police, local authority, vets, and other animal welfare experts to help define the breed. The definition provides clear assessment criteria for owners and enforcement authorities and is a requirement under the Dangerous Dogs Act in order to deliver the ban.
Owners who wish to keep their dogs will have until the end of January to register them and will be forced to comply with strict requirements. As well as being muzzled and kept on a lead in public, these dogs must also be microchipped and neutered.
Dogs under one year when the ban comes in must be neutered by the end of the year, older dogs must be neutered by the end of June.
From 1 February, owners without a Certificate of Exemption face 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.
Coffey said: “We are taking quick and decisive action to protect the public from tragic dog attacks and today I have added the XL Bully type to the list of dogs prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act.”
She added: “We will continue to work closely with the police, canine and veterinary experts, and animal welfare groups, as we take forward these important measures.”
The government estimates there are about 10,000 American XL bullies in the UK, while the Blue Cross animal charity suggests it is more like 15,000.