XL Bully ban

Owning an XL Bully dog without a certificate of exemption is a criminal offence.

It is a criminal offence to:

  • Breed or breed from the dog
  • Sell or exchange the dog
  • Give the dog away
  • Allow the dog to be in a public place without being muzzled and kept on a lead
  • Abandon the dog or allow it to stray

A public place includes the inside of a motor vehicle if it is in a public place at the time. The muzzle must be sufficient to prevent the dog from biting a person. The lead must be held securely by a person at least 16 years old.

These offences will apply to:

  • an owner
  • someone who has possession of someone else’s dog
  • a rescue

An exempted dog must have third party liability insurance (currently costing £25 via Dogs Trust membership – half that if you’re over 60). The dog will have to be kept in secure condition so it can’t escape. There will be other conditions which we can confirm once the full exemption scheme is announced.

DEFRA is currently suggesting that a rescue may be allowed to get a Certificate of Exemption for a dog in their care. However, they may struggle to get insurance and, in any event, they would generally not be able to rehome the dog.


The dog must be neutered, but there is not going to be a requirement for this to be done by 31 January 2024 as the deadline will depend on the age of the dog. If the dog is at least one-year-old on 31 January 2024 then it must be neutered by 30 June 2024, whereas if it is less than one-year-old on 31 January 2024 then you will have until 31 December 2024 to get it neutered. However, please don’t leave it too long as vets are likely to get extremely busy.


If an owner chooses to have their dog put down rather than go through the exemption scheme, the Government says in due course they will offer compensation of £200 per dog (or £100 if it is a rescue). No details have yet been provided for how this scheme will operate.

Where will the ban apply?

This law will apply in England & Wales, but there is a possibility that it could also be brought into force in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Which dogs will the ban apply to?

The wording of the Statutory Instrument makes it clear that the ban applies to “the type of dog known as the XL Bully”. If the Courts interpret this definition in the same way that they do for Pit Bull Terrier types, it means that it will be sufficient if a dog’s physical characteristics ‘substantially’ conform to a breed standard for the XL Bully. The temperament of the dog is likely to be regarded as relevant but not conclusive.

There will be a presumption that once the Police say a dog is an XL Bully type, then that’s what it is unless the owner can prove that they are wrong. DEFRA has published (opens in a new window) what it says is the “Official definition of an XL Bully dog” and it summarises what they regard as the main features. 

However, this definition could well apply to many other types of dog so owners need to make their own decision on whether their particular dog comes within this definition. Advice given is that if in doubt then you should apply for the exemption otherwise once the cut-off date has passed you’re risking the dog being seized, detained for potentially months, a criminal Court case, punishment and a presumption that the dog shall be destroyed. On conviction it is likely that the owner will have to prove:

  • The dog would not constitute a danger to public safety, and
  • There was good reason why the dog hadn’t been exempted by the cut off date

Actions for tenants who own XL Bullies

All Council tenants who own an XL Bully will need to provide us with a copy of their Certificate of Exemption by 1 February 2024, to show they are complying with the law. You will be committing a criminal offence and breaching your tenancy agreement if you do not hold a Certification of Exemption and we will need to report this to the Police.

What to do now

DEFRA has published a document called Prepare for the ban on XL Bull dogs (opens in a new window) which explains how to obtain a Certificate of Exemption. 









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