XL bully owners have two weeks to ensure dog is legal

Some 4,000 dog owners have applied for an exemption from the rules that mean all XL bully dogs need to be on a lead with a muzzle when in public

Owners of XL bully dogs have two weeks to ensure their pets are legal.

From December 31, the dogs must be muzzled in public and it will be illegal to breed, sell or abandon them.

Advertising, gifting and exchanging the pups will also be banned, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

The government reminded owners that they can ask a vet to put their pets down and claim compensation.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “New legal restrictions for XL bullies are now less than a fortnight away.

“Owners should read the guidance and ensure they are ready to comply with the new rules, which includes keeping your XL bully dog muzzled and on a lead in public from 31 December.

“From 1 February 2024, it will also be a criminal offence to be in possession of an XL bully in England and Wales unless you have applied for an exemption.

“Please do not risk leaving it to the last minute if you want to keep your dog, you should apply now for a certificate of exemption.

“We recommend a precautionary approach – if you are unsure if your dog is an XL bully or whether any puppies may grow up to be of this dog type, you should comply with the relevant requirements and restrictions.”

The full ban will come into place on February 1, meaning owners have just over six weeks left to apply for an exemption certificate to keep their dogs, or face potential criminal proceedings and an unlimited fine.

An example of an XL bully breed type from Defra's guidance. Credit: Defra

To qualify for an exemption certificate, owners must prove their XL bully has been neutered by June 30.

If the pup is less than a year old by January 31, they must neutered by the end of 2024, and evidence must be provided.

As well as neutering their animals, XL bully owners seeking an exemption must also pay an application fee, hold active public liability insurance for their pets and ensure the dogs are microchipped.

The measures were introduced after a rise in dog attacks over recent years.

Until 2021 there were about three deaths a year, but there have since been 23.

People with dangerously out of control dogs can be jailed for 14 years and banned from owning animals, and their pets can be put down.

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