What is the XL Bully dog ban and why are there concerns?

The XL bully-type dog ban is in force from Sunday, December 31 in England and Wales.

But what does that actually mean for the animals, their owners, and the future of the breed?

What is the ban?

From the final day of the year it will be illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon or allow an XL bully dog to stray.

Can you keep your dog?

Owners of XL bullies can keep their animals, despite the ban.

The dogs must, however, be registered before the end of January 2024 or it will automatically become illegal on February 1.

XL Bully owners protest in Coventry amid fears that the dogs will be dumped after the government ban. Credit: PA

Applications to register bullies opened in November, and can be done via the Government's website, through their online portal or by downloading the form to apply by post.

Owners who fail to register their XL bully face a criminal record and an unlimited fine. Their dogs could also be seized.

After completing that process, owners of the breed must also always keep their dogs muzzled and on a lead when in public.

What if you don't want to keep your dog?

If owners no longer want their XL bullies they can choose to have the animal put to sleep by a registered vet but must do so by 31 January 2024.

The government is offering £200 to owners in compensation which can be accessed using a form on their website.

Rescue and rehoming organisations can go through the same process and claim £100 compensation.

What if you're unsure if you have an XL bully?

The government has released guidance on the official definition of an XL bully type dog, and the document has been published on the gov.uk website.

Owners will need to check the dog’s physical characteristics like size and height, but the guidance says: "It’s up to the owner or keeper to self-identify whether a dog may be an XL bully."

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

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has urged owners to "take a precautionary approach" and advised people to prepare for the ban if they're unsure.

Defra admitted: "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," but stressed: "These are not within scope of the ban."

What if your dog isn't an XL bully but could be targeted by the ban?

Defra's stance is, while your dog may not have been sold as an XL bully type, if it meets "the minimum height measurements and has a substantial amount of the physical characteristics" in the official definition then your pet may be in scope of the ban.

Dog owners have told ITV News they're fearing for their pets' lives because some of the animal's dimensions meet the legal criteria to be considered XLs, even if their not.

Animal welfare charity Blue Cross has echoed those concerns.

In a statement the charity told ITV News: "It is not only hugely subjective and open to interpretation for the individuals enforcing this legislation – creating a lack of consistency across the country – but it also places a burden on owners to interpret the guidance."

But the government says it's taken "quick and decisive action to protect the public from tragic dog attacks."

A spokesperson for Defra told ITV News: "We convened a group of experts and other stakeholders to define the physical characteristics of the breed type. It is up to the owner or keeper to identify whether they think their dog may be in scope of the ban.  

"We are recommending that owners take a precautionary approach if they are unsure if their dog is an XL Bully or if any puppies may grow up to be of this dog type, by complying with the relevant requirements and restrictions as they come into force."

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