January 08, 2024 | General

New Legal Restrictions on Owning an XL Bully Dog in the UK in 2024: Your Questions Answered

Update: Statement from Scottish SPCA on the anticipated XL bully ban in Scotland - 15 January 2024.

"The Scottish SPCA is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that the timescale and details of the XL bully ban in Scotland are workable and enforceable. We expect the Scottish Government to confirm in a Ministerial Statement this week that the UK Government’s XL bully ban will be replicated in Scotland. We anticipate that this will mean that from a date to be determined, it will be against the law to have an XL bully dog in a public place, including in a private car, without a lead and muzzle. It will also be a criminal offence to own an XL bully dog in Scotland, as well as England and Wales, without a certificate of exemption from the date to be set in the legislation." (Scottish SPCA, 2024)

What is an XL Bully dog?

An American bully XL, known as an XL Bully, is the largest of the American bully types. It is not a registered breed with the Kennel Club here in the UK as they are crossbreeds, bred from several different breeds of dogs such as the American pit bull terrier - already banned in England and Wales - and other bull breeds. American bullies first appeared in Britain around 2014 or 2015 and numbers grew rapidly during the pandemic.

XL Bully dog at the park with a dog toy

What does an XL Bully dog look like?

As these are crossbred dogs, there can be much variation in their appearance, making them harder to identify. The general impression is of a large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size - a powerfully built individual.

Why has the XL Bully been banned in England and Wales? 

The decision to ban XL Bully dogs was made by government ministers following a concerning rise in the number of attacks from dangerous dogs, with 23 people sadly losing their lives after vicious dog attacks in the last three years. XL Bullies have been involved in many of these tragic deaths.

Video: Are the new rules coming in for owning XL bully dogs enough?

Sky News have covered the new rules that are set to be enforced for owning XL bully dogs and if they’re enough to protect against the rise in cases of attacks. Watch the discussion with Dog behaviourist, Niall Barnes, below:

What does the ban mean for owners of XL Bullies?

New restrictions on the XL Bully dogs came into force on 31st December 2023 making it a legal requirement for all XL Bully dogs to be kept on a lead and muzzled when in public. It is also illegal to breed, sell, advertise, gift, exchange, abandon or let XL Bully dogs stray.

Owners are being urged to apply to register their current XL Bully dogs and there is only a month left to meet the deadline when the ban comes into force on 1st February 2024. Owning an unregistered dog after this date will be a criminal offence, with owners who don’t comply facing a criminal record and an unlimited fine. 

Also, from 30th June 2024, all XL Bully dogs over 1-year-old must be neutered; this is extended to 31st December 2024 for younger dogs.

What is the “official” definition of an XL Bully, or XL-type Bully dog?

If owners are unsure whether their dog could be classed as an XL Bully, they should check their dog carefully against the government guidance and photograph examples by visiting the official gov.uk source.

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 these characteristics, it could be considered an XL Bully breed type. This includes:

  • if it was not sold as an XL Bully

  • crossbreeds that look more like XL Bully dogs than any other type of dog

There are several very useful online tutorials to help you accurately measure the height of your dog, such as the video tutorial below provided by Blue Cross:

I have confirmed that my dog fits the government's description of an XL Bully - what do I need to do now?

You’ll need to apply to the government’s exemption scheme and pay for a certificate of exemption which will cost £92.40 before 31 January 2024. You will also need to make sure:

  • Your dog is microchipped and neutered (by the deadlines provided)

  • They are kept on a lead and muzzled in a public place, including in cars

  • They are kept in a secure place so they cannot escape

  • You have third-party public liability insurance cover for your dog

You also need to be at least 16 years old to own an XL bully type.

Applying for the exemption scheme

You can now apply for the government’s exemption scheme which entitles you to receive a certificate of exemption for your dog. Exemption costs £92.40 for each dog.

You’ll need to complete your application before the 31st of January 2024 when the online exemption scheme will close. After this date, your dog could be seized and kennelled by the police. You’ll then have to get an exemption by going through a lengthy assessment process in the courts.

As part of the application, you’ll be asked to provide:

  • Details for your dog (e.g. name and age)

  • Their microchip number – ask your vet if you're unsure about this

  • Third-party public liability insurance start date

  • Proof of neutering (by the dates below)

  • Your details and date of birth (you need to be at least 16 years old to own an XL bully type)

There may be an influx of applications in January 2024, so we recommend applying as soon as possible if your dog meets the specifications of an XL bully type. This will make sure your dog meets the legal requirement by the deadline of the 31st of January 2024.

My adult dog has never been on the lead, or been muzzled: How do I get them used to these without distressing them?

Your dog will also need to wear a muzzle when out in public, including in cars, and they will need to be walked on a lead at all times.

If you have not already started, you can get your dog used to wearing a muzzle by using positive reward-based training so that it’s a good experience for you and your dog.

The RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home give very good advice on lead-training adult dogs. 

Medically reviewed by:


Prepare for the ban on XL Bully dogs | GOV.UK

Support for XL Bully owners | Dogs Trust

XL Bully Ban in UK Explained | Blue Cross

American XL Bullies | RSPCA

Train Your Dog to Stop Pulling On The Lead | RSPCA

How to teach your dog to walk on a lead | Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

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