We know that dog owners are very worried about the XL Bully ban and what this means for their dogs, now and in the future. At Hope Rescue, we share these concerns and will do everything we can to offer support and advice over the coming weeks and months. 

What do I have to do if I own an XL Bully?

It's important to understand that owners will be able to legally keep their dogs subject to conditions, but they will need to take action. We would urge owners to ensure they read the UK Government advice here on how to prepare for the ban

Read the guidance here   (opens in new tab)

From 1 February 2024, it will be illegal to own an XL Bully in England and Wales unless you have a Certificate of Exemption for your dog. Owners will have until midday on 31 January 2024 to apply for this exemption.

Follow the link below to apply for a Certificate of Exemption for your dog.

We strongly advise that you apply for your Certificate of Exemption as soon as possible, to avoid any processing delays as the registration date gets closer.

Apply for a Certificate of Exemption (opens in a new tab)

From 31 December 2023, XL Bully dogs must wear a muzzle and be kept on a lead when in a public place.

We strongly recommend that owners should start to train their dogs to wear a muzzle when in public and to walk on a lead before this date. It's important to introduce your dog to a muzzle gradually and positively.

Our friends at the Blue Cross have some excellent advice here:

Advice on muzzle training  (opens in new tab)

Owners must ensure their XL Bully is:

  • microchipped
  • neutered (or if your dog is less than one year old on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered by 31 December 2024)
  • kept in a secure place so that they can’t escape.

Owners must also:

  • have third party liability insurance against your dog injuring other people (you can obtain this via the Dogs Trust membership scheme here: https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/support-us/companion-club )
  • be aged over 16
  • show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or council dog warden, either at the time or within 5 days
  • let the Index of Exempt Dogs know if you change address, or your dog dies.

There is also some useful training available from our friends at Battersea

American Bully XL owner support  (opens in new tab)

Once your dog has a Certificate of Exemption you must adhere to the conditions otherwise you could be committing a criminal offence and your dog could be seized.

It should be noted that it will also be illegal to sell, breed, give away an XL Bully dog from 31st December 2023.

What about XL Bullies in Scotland?

On 31st of January, the Scottish Government confirmed the process for an XL Bully ban.

The measures will be in line with those in Wales and England.

From 23 February 2024 in Scotland, 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 31 July, will make it an offence to own an XL Bully without an exemption certificate or having applied for an exemption certificate. This means existing XL Bully dog owners will need to consider whether they wish to keep their dogs and if so will have to apply and pay for an exemption permit by that date.

Read more from the Scottish Government here

Is my dog an XL Bully?

The UK Government has published a standard definition of an XL Bully

Read the definition here (opens in new tab)

Owners are being asked to identify whether their dogs are an XL Bully. You will need consider the definition and carefully look at your dog’s physical appearance and various body parts as well as measuring their height.

A suspected XL Bully breed type does not need to fit the physical description perfectly. If your dog meets the minimum height measurements and a substantial number of the characteristics in the official definition, it could be considered an XL Bully breed type. The Blue Cross has a useful video on the Government advice page to help you measure your dog.

The UK Government advises that you take a precautionary approach if you are unsure whether your dog meets the standard, to ensure that you don’t put your dog at risk of being seized as a banned breed once the legislation comes in to force. The legislation does provide for the withdrawal of a Certificate of Exemption, where this is requested by the holder if they later find that their dog does not meet the specification of an XL Bully. In these cases, the dog owner could apply for their Certificate of Exemption to be withdrawn.

I am a housing association tenant in Wales, how will the ban affect me?

We have written to all of the housing associations in Wales requesting information about their policies on XL Bullies. Further updates will be posted here as we receive them.

What will happen to the XL Bully dogs in your care at Hope Rescue?

It is an extremely worrying and concerning time for everyone working in animal welfare.

We are still working through the consequences of the ban on us as a rescue centre. As a rescue that primarily deals with stray dogs and seized dogs, we have a number of dogs that are likely to fit the standard, although we will be awaiting further guidance before making any assessments.

We will continue to rehome any XL Bully dog in our care that has passed its rehoming assessment, with full disclosure and support for the adopters, up until 31st December 2023.  

After this date we will be unable to legally rehome an XL Bully dog.

The guidance does state that rescues can keep their XL Bully dogs. It’s important that we manage the general public's expectations around this.

Generally, bully type dogs do not do well in a kennel environment. The welfare of the dogs in our care is always our main priority and we do not believe that providing lifetime kenneling at the rescue centre for our XL Bully dogs will be in their best welfare interest.

As an organisation who cares passionately about animal welfare, it saddens us deeply that we will therefore be required to euthanise any XL Bully dog in our care, or that will come in to our care, after 31st December 2023.

We will continue to lobby the UK Government to allow rescue centres to rehome prohibited breeds subject to the exemption conditions.

What is Hope Rescue’s view on the ban?

Hope Rescue is part of the Dog Control Coalition, along with RSPCA, Blue Cross, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Scottish SPCA, The Kennel Club, PDSA, USPCA and British Veterinary Association.

You can read more about our views on the ban here