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The news that all responsible, dog lovers have been dreading is in and the Government published guidance on the 31st of October 2023 regarding the upcoming XL Bully dog ban. Let’s see if we can make sense of the main points of a document that lacks clarity with a sense of purposeful ambiguity.
This new law will be enforced in two stages with a fast-approaching deadline:
31st December 2023 you cannot sell, abandon, give away, rehome, breed an XL Bully dog OR have one in public without a lead and muzzle. It will also be a criminal offence for any XL Bully dog to be bred with any combination of dogs (accident or otherwise). If any puppies are born after this date it will be an offence to sell them or rehome them. Puppies under 8 weeks old can still be collected up to this date, however, it is also illegal to sell a puppy to a new owner under the age of 8 weeks of age.
31st January 2024, the deadline to apply for a Certificate of Exemption.
1st February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales without a Certificate of Exemption. The exception carries strict rules of an up-to-date microchip, keeping on lead and muzzled in public along with all dogs needing to be neutered. You must also keep your dog secure so it cannot escape.
30th June 2024 is the deadline for neutering dogs older than one year old on 31st January 2024.
31st December 2024 the deadline for neutering that were less than one year old on 31st January 2024.
Keeping your dog
If you wish to keep your dog, you must apply for a Certificate of Exemption by the end of January 2024. You will need to pay £92.40 for the application.
The owner must be over 16 years old, have insurance against injuring people, and be able to provide the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or dog warden. It is important to note that pet insurance will be virtually impossible to obtain with most excluding the breed. Third-party liability is provided through the Dogs Trust Membership.
Not keeping your dog
If you do not wish to keep your dog, you are advised by the Government to euthanise your dog with a registered veterinary surgeon. If you decide to euthanise your dog, you can claim compensation towards the cost of £200 if you ask your veterinary surgeon to complete the correct form. How kind of them.
Definition of an XL Bully Dog
The government have produced an official definition of an XL Bully dog which reads as a vague description covering many other breeds. Some photographic examples are included in the document. In another document for enforcers, it is stated that the ‘standard provided is not intended to represent an exhaustive list of physical characteristics.’ Furthermore, a dog will be considered to be a type of XL Bully dog if a substantial number of characteristics described in the definition are present. What does this mean? Well, unfortunately, many other breeds could and do fall under this description. The government are therefore advising a precautionary approach ‘If you think your dog could be an XL Bully dog, you should comply with all new requirements. This includes puppies that may grow up to be an XL Bully dog.’ This is very worrying as the onerous has been placed on pet owners to interrupt this guidance themselves.
As the law is concerned with the type of dog, each dog will be judged on appearance with DNA, breed names or pedigrees being disregarded. Owners of other types of crossbreeds have already been advised by legal specialists to be cautious and apply for a Certificate of Exemption.
What you can do now
Be proactive, start training your dog to wear a muzzle and implement lead training as soon as possible. A lot of trainers will not be covered by their insurance to help XL Bully dog owners once the ban comes in.
If your dog already shows signs of behavioural issues, do not delay in getting help from a Clinical Animal Behaviourist (the most recognised by the government). Put money aside for the fees you will need to pay and plan for neutering if your Bully is still entire. Check your microchip details and ensure they are completely up to date.
Can my veterinary surgeon help me prove my dog is not an XL Bully?
No, unfortunately not. The responsibility for deciding if your dog falls under the legislation is only the owner's responsibility.
This checklist is free for you to download, simply click the link below to access it. The checklist is just a guide, it is the owner's responsibility to ensure all the correct steps are taken in registering their dog.