What happens if XL Bullies get banned?

Written by Rachel Rodgers
Reviewed by Napo HQ
28th Nov 2023
8 mins read
Grey XL Bully sitting
XL Bully dogs will be banned in England and Wales from 31st December. They will soon be banned in Scotland, but the date has not been announced. If you own an XL Bully, you must apply for a certificate of exemption and follow the government guidance to increase your chances of keeping your dog. Otherwise, they sadly will need to be put down. In our guide, we explain what the ban means and what you need to do now if you own an XL Bully type dog, or a similar dog.

What happens if XL Bullies get banned?

Back in September 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would add the XL Bully to the banned breed list. If you own an XL Bully, or a dog that seems similar, we understand you'll be worried about what could happen to your dog. Our in-house behaviourist explains what happens when XL bullies are banned, how to prepare for the ban, and what it means for you and your dog.

What is an XL Bully?

An XL Bully is the largest and newest of the bull breeds, arriving in the UK in the 1980s. However, it’s not a recognised breed here in the UK. They were bred by crossing different bull breeds, including the American Pitbull Terrier. Pitbulls are also not a recognised breed in the UK, and they're
another banned breed
An XL Bully can weigh up to 60kg and is a muscular, compact dog with a very wide muzzle. 
If you want to read in more detail, the Government has given enforcement officers
guidance on what an XL Bully is

What classes as an XL Bully?

The government has defined
what they class as an XL Bully
According to that definition, it is a "Large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size. Powerfully built individual."
Size is one of the most important factors that classes an XL Bully type dog. According to the Government, an adult male is from 20in (51 cm) at the withers. And an adult female is from 19in (48cm) at the withers.
There are a few other characteristics listed on
the Government's definition page

Is a Staffy a XL Bully?

or Staffie is not an XL Bully, although they are both bull breeds.
Staffy is short for
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
. They're an established breed and a different kind of dog. They were originally bred as fighting dogs for the pits. But they’re now bred to be happy, playful companions with a soft temperament making them very popular pets.
Staffys are also much smaller than XL Bullies. Staffordshire Bull Terriers tend to be 13-17kg, whilst XL Bullies are much bigger and weigh up to 60kg. They're usually much shorter too.
However, the new government guidelines for
what classifies as an XL Bully
make the size difference seem smaller. This can be confusing, and worrying, for owners.
The government suggests
a male XL Bully would be 20 inches at the withers, which is where their neck meets their back. Meanwhile, the
UK Kennel Club standard for Staffys
only measures a few inches shorter at 16 inches at the withers.
There are other similarities between the two breeds, with both being described as having a smooth “close” coat, and they’re both muscly, agile dogs. 
The problem is that the XL Bully is not a recognised breed of dog in the UK. It is a “type”, made up of several different crossbreeds of dogs. Because of this, there’s a list of criteria being used to define the breed, rather than having a clear pedigree or breed standard like more established breeds such as Staffys. This is similar to how the “Pitbull Terrier type” was defined in the
Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) legislation

Have XL Bullies been banned?

Yes, XL Bullies will be banned in England, Wales, and Scotland. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
announced on the 15th September
that he would ban the the dog in England. The ban will come into force from 1st January 2024 in England. From that date it will be illegal to:
  • Sell an XL Bully dog.
  • Abandon an XL Bully dog, or let it stray.
  • Give away an XL Bully dog.
  • Breed from an XL Bully dog, or breed a combination of dogs to produce an XL Bully.
  • Have an XL Bully in public without a lead and muzzle.
On 11th January 2024,
Scotland announced
that they would also be banning XL Bullies. Their rules are very similar to the ones already announced in England and Wales. However, the Scottish government has not yet announced the date when the ban will come into force.

When are XL Bullies getting banned?

Sadly XL Bullies will be banned in England and Wales from 31st December 2023.
From 1 February 2024, it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales unless your dog has a Certificate of Exemption. You can find out more about the certificate and exempt dogs in the
government’s advice on preparing for the ban

Why are XL Bullies banned?

According to the
website, the UK government banned XL Bullies following a concerning rise in attacks and fatalities caused by XL Bully dogs. The government has added this breed to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
This was sparked after an XL Bully attacked a young girl in Birmingham in September 2023. Suella Braverman, who was home secretary at the time, stated publicly she was going to do something about the problem.

What happens if XL Bullies get banned?

When XL Bullies are banned, existing dogs will need to be exempt, or put down.
Because there are so many of these dogs in the UK, the government have set up an exemption scheme. This gives people who already own an XL Bully a short amount of time to declare that they have such a dog, and put measures in place that the government believe will reduce the risk of these dogs being involved in attacks.
The measures also aim to reduce the number of dogs within the UK population. This is because part of the exemption is that the dogs must be neutered or spayed so they can’t have puppies. In theory, if the whole population of these dogs can’t breed, then you stop having these dogs within the population.

What happens if you already own an XL Bully?

If you own an XL Bully, you can follow the government guidelines and keep your dog. Or make the difficult decision to have your dog put down. It’s a horrible position for owners to be in. The UK government made
“prepare for the ban” guidance
so concerned owners to find out more.
To keep your XL Bully, you’ll need to meet all the guidelines the government has set out, which we explain below.
You may decide you are unable to meet these requirements and have to make the difficult decision to have your XL Bully put own. The government have created
a compensation scheme for XL Bully owners
. This is so owners who choose to have their dog put down can claim back some money towards euthanasia and disposal costs.

Can I keep my XL Bully?

Yes, you might be able to keep your XL Bully. TTo be able to keep your dog you must apply for an exemption certificate, and follow the following guidelines set by the government. To follow these guidelines you must:
  • Be over 16 years old.
  • Get third-party public liability insurance cover for your dog.
  • Neuter your dog
  • Microchip your dog.
  • Keep your dog in a secure place so it cannot escape.
  • Keep your dog on a lead at all times in public.
  • Make sure
    your dog wears a muzzle
    at all times in public.
  • Pay the £92.40 fee for each dog you want to keep.
  • Be able to show the certificate of exemption when asked by a police officer or a council dog warden. Either at the time, or within 5 days.

Third party liability insurance for XL Bullies

You must get
third party public liability insurance
cover (TPL) for your dog. This needs to start before 1st Feb 2024. Unfortunately, many insurers, including Napo, can’t insure banned breeds. But according to the
website, TPL cover can be obtained through the charity Dogs Trust.

Neutering and spaying XL Bullies

You must neuter or spay your dog permanently if they aren't already. A registered vet must confirm if your dog is already neutered or spayed for you to complete the exemption paperwork.
  • If they're 1 year old or older on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered by 30 June 2024.
  • If they're less than 1 year old on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered by 31 December 2024

Is there support for neutering XL Bullies?

Several charities are offering support for neutering XL Bullies, including neutering days and discounts. For example,
Blue Cross is offering up to £250
for eligible owners to help cover the cost of neutering or spaying their XL Bully.

Fees and certificates for keeping an XL Bully

You have to
apply for a certificate of exemption
to keep your dog. You will also need to
pay the £92.40 fee
for each dog you want to keep. The fee is not refundable.

Will my XL Bully be put down?

Your XL Bully might not be put down, provided you are granted an exemption and follow all the guidelines set out. These steps help reduce the chance of your dog being put down.
However, if the guidelines are not met, such as not having insurance, or your dog escaping, then it may be put to sleep. And if you do not want to
apply for a certificate of exemption
, you must have your dog
put down by a registered vet
by 31 January.

Will all XL Bullies be put to sleep?

No, not all XL Bullies will be put to sleep. If you
apply for a certificate exemption
and follow all the guidelines set out by the government, there is a chance you can keep your XL Bully. Sadly, many owners are choosing to euthanise their dogs due to the restrictions. And there is a chance that any not exempt dog may be put down after 1 February 2024.

Do XL Bullies have to be muzzled?

Yes, all XL Bullies and XL Bully type dogs will have to
be muzzled
and kept on a lead when out in public from 1 January 2024.
Because XL Bullies have to be muzzled in public, it’s important to train them to wear a muzzle. This means your dog will be more comfortable wearing a muzzle, and it won’t come as a shock to you or the dog. Here’s our complete
guide to muzzle training
to help you get your dog used to wearing a muzzle.
We also have a guide on
how to find a muzzle that fits
. Finding the right fit is important to make sure your dog is comfortable in their muzzle, and can still do vital doggy behaviours like panting and drinking.


If you own an XL Bully type dog, or a dog that matches the criteria for the type, you should prepare for the ban using
the government guidance
. This will reduce the risk of your dog being put to sleep.
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