How could XL bully owners be in breach of the law and should you report them?

The deadline has passed for owners of XL bully dogs to apply for certificates of exemption to keep their pets before a ban on the breed comes into force, Chris Choi reports as thousands of dogs could potentially face being destroyed

Words by Hannah Ward-Glenton, ITV News Multimedia Producer

XL bully owners are now no longer able to apply for exemption certificates if they want to keep their dogs, with the ban on the breed set to come into force on Thursday.

It follows restrictions imposed at the end of last year after a series of attacks involving XL bullies, with one man dying after being fatally injured by one of the dogs last year.

So what are the rules and should you report dogs you see in public?

Leads, muzzles and exemption certificates

The government introduced new measures in December dictating that XL bullies must be kept on a lead, be muzzled in public and be kept in secure enough accommodation that they cannot escape.

It will be considered a criminal offence if owners are not complying with the new rules.

From February 1, it will also be a criminal offence to own an XL bully dog in England and Wales without a certificate of exemption.

To qualify for a certificate, owners needed to prove their XL bully would be neutered by June 30 if they were aged one or older on January 31, or by December 31, 2024 if dogs are younger than 12 months.

Applications for exemption certificates closed at midday on Wednesday.

As well as neutering their animals, XL bully owners wanting to certify their dog as exempt needed to pay an application fee, hold third party public liability insurance for their pets and ensure the dogs are microchipped.

Breeding, selling or abandoning the dogs is also illegal as of December 31.

When will XL bully bans come into law in Scotland?

The first of a two-stage approach to new legal safeguards on XL bully dogs in Scotland will come into force on February 23, subject to parliamentary approval.

From this date, it will remain legal to own an XL bully dog, but owners must ensure their dogs are muzzled and on a lead when in a public place. Selling, gifting or exchanging XL bully dogs will also be prohibited.

Stage two of the new rules, which come into force from July 31, will make it an offence to own an XL bully without an exemption certificate or having applied for an exemption certificate.

Pit Bull Terriers are among the breeds of dog banned in the UK. Credit: AP

Should you report XL bullies?

The Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) advises that anybody with concerns about an XL bully, or any other dog that is dangerously out of control, should get in touch with their local police force.

Each police service should have an officer trained in all dog-related legislation and have a good knowledge of the identification of the prohibited types.

The same guidance applies for all dogs banned in the UK according to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, such as Japanese tosas and pit bull terriers.

How can you identify an XL bully dog?

The government issued the following description of an XL bully dog on its website:

"Large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size. Powerfully built individual."

Other XL bully features include prominent cheek muscles, a well-defined jaw, long muscled shoulder blades, strong broad legs and a medium-length, low set tail.

Male dogs tend to be upwards of 51cm tall, while adult females are usually around 48cm.

Defra also highlights a dog could be classified as an XL bully even if it wasn't sold as such, including if it is a cross breed that looks more like an XL bully than any other type.

XL bully. Credit: PA

What impact will the ban have?

The RSPCA has previously said the measures were “not the answer” and warned of a “huge risk” that rescue centres and vets will be unable to cope with a likely surge in demand.

The Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) warned of increased abandonment rates and said the new rules may lead to a “postcode lottery” for vets being able to help owners meet the terms.

There has also been criticism the number of attacks is unlikely to drop as a result of the ban.

XL bullies were added to the Dangerous Dogs Act on October 31 last year, giving owners two months to prepare for the first stage of restrictions.

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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