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XL Bully ban: What you need to know

We understand that the recent announcement about the XL Bully ban has been very worrying – both for owners and the wider animal lover community.

To help you prepare for the new laws, we have put together a guide to the key requirements, exemptions and important dates that you need to be aware of.

If you’re an XL Bully owner and need support or have any questions, please get in touch with your local practice, who are always here to help.

What do we know so far?

At the end of October 2023, the UK government announced its ban of the XL Bully breed in response to a series of serious and, in some cases, fatal attacks. This means they have been listed under the Dangerous Dog Act 1991, alongside previously banned breeds including the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

To support owners in adapting to the new laws, the changes will come into force in three stages, which we will outline in our important dates section below.

Checking if your dog is an XL Bully

One of the most pressing questions currently for owners is how to know if a dog would be classified as an XL Bully ‘type’. The government has put together official guidance to help define this, with some of the characteristics mentioned including (but not limited to):

  • A large dog with a muscular body and blocky head
  • Adult males from 20in (51cm) in height, adult females from 19in (48cm)
  • Heavily-muscled body with a broad, deep chest and well sprung ribs
  • Large and broad head

For the full list of characteristics, read the government’s official guidance here.

If you remain unsure if you have an XL Bully, the guidance is to prepare for compliance with all new requirements for this dog type, including for puppies that may grow up to be an XL Bully dog. If you would like extra guidance please speak to a member of our highly qualified team.

Important dates for owners

From 31 December 2023 it will be against the law to:

  • Sell an XL Bully dog
  • Abandon an XL Bully dog
  • Give away an XL Bully dog
  • Breed from an XL Bully dog
  • Have an XL Bully dog in public without a lead and muzzle

From 1 February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales unless you:

  • Are over 16 years old
  • Have a Certificate of Exemption for your dog (apply by 31st January 2024)
  • Microchip your dog
  • Keep your dog on a lead and muzzled when in public
  • Keep your dog in a secure place so it cannot escape
  • Neuter your dog (there will be a ‘proof of neutering form’ for vets to complete and return to Defra)
    – By 30th June 2024 if your dog is over 1 year old on 31st January 2024
    – By 31st December 2024 if your dog is under 1 year old on 31st January 2024
  • Take out insurance against your dog injuring other people

Training your dog to wear a muzzle and walk on a lead

The guidance recommends that owners should start to train their dogs to wear a muzzle when in public and to walk on a lead before 31st December 2023. It can be tempting to skip muzzle training, but this will likely scare your dog and make it an uncomfortable experience for them.

Choose a correctly fitting muzzle

The muzzle should allow your dog to breathe freely and comfortably.

Here are some top tips on getting the right fit:

  • There should be roughly 1cm space between your dog’s nose and the end of the muzzle – their nose shouldn’t touch the end of it
  • The straps shouldn’t be too tight – you should be able to slip one finger between the straps and your dog
  • Your dog shouldn’t be able to shake or pull the muzzle off

We find the best way to approach muzzle training is:

  • Get your dog used to the muzzle by putting some of their favourite food (such as cream cheese) in the bottom of it
  • Allow them to eat the treat a few times without fastening it
  • Initially fasten the muzzle and take it straight off, gradually build up to leaving it on for longer periods
  • Try holding the muzzle further away so your dog approaches it themselves
  • Vary the location and times of day you practise putting the muzzle on, as well as the length of time you leave it on for
  • Give your dog treats and take them for walks while wearing the muzzle, so they associate the muzzle with a positive experience
  • If your dog is anxious about wearing a muzzle, our qualified team is always happy to offer further advice

What should I do if I own an XL Bully?

If you own an XL Bully, continue caring for them as normal. We know that it’s a worrying time, but the best thing you can do for yourself and your dog is to not panic.

The licensing process will require them to be neutered and microchipped, so it’s important to make sure you are prepared for this in advance. When the ban comes into force, you’ll then need to apply for a Certificate of Exemption to keep your dog and comply with the rules around banned breeds.

We’re here for you

The teams at your local St Kitts Vets practice are on hand to provide support and help answer any questions you may have. We can also provide neutering and microchipping to ensure your dog is compliant before the new law comes into place. Please contact us to discuss booking an appointment.

St Kitts Vets Hartley Wintney: 01252 844044
St Kitts Vets Basingstoke: 01256 844944
Crookham Park Veterinary Centre: 01252 913990
Firgrove Veterinary Centre: 01252 877799


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