The Kennel Club has produced this guidance to support dog owners in understanding the ban on XL Bully dogs. The information is correct at the point of publishing, however, the Government is regularly updating guidance, so it is recommended that owners of XL Bully type dogs and dogs which might be deemed to be XL Bully types regularly visit the relevant Government webpages to check for new updates.
You can find The Kennel Club’s position on dangerous dog law and breed specific legislation here.
Outline of the ban
The UK Government has introduced legislation banning XL Bully type dogs in England and Wales. It is now a legal requirement for all XL Bully dogs to be kept on a lead and muzzled when in public in England and Wales. It is also illegal to breed, sell, advertise, gift, exchange, abandon or let XL Bully dogs stray in England and Wales.
From 1 February 2024, it will be a criminal offence to possess an XL Bully breed type in England and Wales unless the dog is registered on the Index of Exempted dogs and they follow certain rules, which include microchipping, neutering, insuring their dog, and muzzling them and keeping them on a lead in public.
The Scottish Government has announced plans to introduce equivalent legislation in due course. At this point in time, no equivalent legislation has been announced for Northern Ireland.
How are XL Bully dogs identified?
By law, a dog will be determined to be an XL Bully type purely based on its appearance. The UK Government has produced a conformation standard that details the physical characteristics which must be assessed to determine whether a dog is deemed to be an XL Bully and subject to the ban, or not.
DNA tests will not be considered when determining whether a dog is an XL Bully type or not.
It does not matter whether the dog was sold or rehomed as a different breed or type. Some dogs which were sold as an XL Bully may not meet the criteria set out by Government, and therefore not subject to the legal restrictions. Conversely dogs which were sold as another breed, type or cross breed may be determined to be an XL Bully type.
What’s included in the conformation standard for XL Bully dogs?
The conformation standard includes details on height, shape, and other features that determine whether a dog is deemed to be an XL Bully breed type or not.
The Government has made it clear that any adult male under 20 inches (51cm) at the withers, and any adult female under 19 inches (48cm) at the withers will not be deemed to be an XL Bully type dog.
If a dog meets the minimum height measurements and a substantial number of characteristics set out in the conformation standard, it may be deemed to be an XL Bully type dog and therefore subject to the ban.
Have any Kennel Club registered dog breeds been banned?
The Government has confirmed that the ban does not extend to breeds recognised by The Kennel Club – its guidance reads: “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 covered by the ban. The ban does not apply to dogs that are clearly not XL Bully dogs and are clearly identifiable as another breed.”
What does the ban mean if I own an XL bully, or a dog which looks similar to an XL Bully breed type?
If you believe that you might own an XL Bully breed type, or you believe that your dog has, or could be seen to have, a similar appearance to an XL Bully breed type, then you must use the Government’s Official definition to identify if your dog may be that type.
Only the police, and ultimately the courts, are empowered to determine whether a dog meets the legal criteria to be determined as an XL Bully type dog. The Kennel Club, a dog training club, a vet etc. are not able to make a definitive decision as to whether a dog is or is not an XL Bully type dog.
It is not always going to be clear whether a dog is of type or not, DEFRA is advising owners to take a precautionary approach and to register their dog on the index. For further information please see the official Government advice.
Key dates - England and Wales
31 December 2023 — it became illegal to breed, sell, advertise, rehome, abandon or allow an American XL Bully type dog to stray.
15 January 2024 — deadline to apply for a Certificate of Exemption by post.
31 January 2024 — deadline to apply for a Certificate of Exemption online (12 noon).
1 February 2024 — it will be illegal to own an American XL Bully type dog if they are not registered on the Index of Exempted dogs. Owners must also have third party public liability insurance in place, and dogs must be microchipped and neutered (unless they’re too young, see other dates below).
31 March 2024 — deadline to have your dog microchipped and give the microchip number to Defra if your dog was less than eight weeks old when you applied for a Certificate of Exemption.
30 June 2024 — deadline to have your dog neutered and give evidence to Defra if your dog was more than one year old on 31 January 2024.
31 December 2024 — deadline to have your dog neutered and give evidence to Defra if your dog was less than one year old on 31 January 2024.
What if I live in Scotland or Northern Ireland?
The Scottish Government has announced plans to ban XL Bully dogs in Scotland. Whilst we understand that Scotland will follow the same guidelines as England and Wales, we are still waiting on confirmation as to when dog owners in Scotland will need to apply for an exemption.
If you live in Northern Ireland at this stage no legislation has been announced in relation to banning XL Bully breed type dogs.
Please note that the relevant laws, set out above, will apply to your dog if you take it into England and Wales from 31 December 2023 and it will be illegal to take a non-exempted XL Bully type dog into England and Wales from 1 February 2024.