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  • Writer's pictureAustin & Carnley Solicitors

The American XL Bully Ban – Advice for Owners

From the 1st February 2024 it became a criminal offence to own or possess an XL Bully dog in England and Wales unless you have a valid exemption. This ban will be extended to Scotland from the 23rd February 2024. Our experienced criminal law solicitors have put together this guide to assist you with understanding this new law.

The Law

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 created offences in relation to the ownership and control of certain dogs. Under this legislation, it is now a criminal offence to own, possess, sell, breed, or abandon a prohibited dog.

This includes the following dogs:

  • Pitbull Terrier

  • Japanese Tosa

  • Dogo Argentino

  • Fila Brasileiro

  • XL Bully Dog – added 31st December 2023


The American XL Bully is the largest type of American bully dog and is a product of breeding between several different types of dog. They are not registered with the UK Kennel Club, therefore there is no definition of what is considered an XL Bully.

As a result, the government has created its own description of the breed which includes the size of their head and muzzle, build, height and length of their body. Surprisingly, the name of the breed of dog, their genetics and their parentage are not considered when determining if the dog is an XL Bully.

The minimum height for a dog to be considered an XL Bully is 20 inches for males and 19 inches for females. This height is measured from the ground to the top of the dog’s shoulders (withers). If a dog fails to meet this height requirement, then they will not be considered an XL bully. If they meet the requirement then they should be assessed against the other specifications which cover characteristics including the head, teeth, neck, forequarters, body, hindquarters, feet, tail, coat and general impression of the dog.

Requirements for Owners

  1. Certificate of Exemption – The governments exemption scheme is now closed for dogs in England and Wales, so you will need to contact DEFRA and your local police force as new exemptions can only be authorised by a court order.

  2. The dog must be microchipped and neutered by the deadlines provided below.

  3. It must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public places which includes when the dog is being transported in any vehicle.

  4. The dog needs to be kept in a secure place so that it cannot escape.

  5. Third party public liability insurance cover needs to be in place for the dog in case they cause any injuries or damage.

  6. If you own or walk an XL Bully, you need to be at least 16 years old.

  7. You must inform DEFRA if you change address, if the dog is exported or if the dog passes away.


  • Failing to register an XL Bully can result in a criminal record and unlimited fine.

  • Your dog could be seized.

  • Penalties from the Dangerous Dogs Act could also apply where the dog is dangerously out of control which can include up to 14 years in prison, disqualification from dog ownership and your dog being euthanised.

Important Deadlines – England and Wales

31st December 2023 – This is the date when it became illegal to breed; sell or exchange; give away; or abandon an XL bully. It also brought in the requirements for the dog to be kept on a lead and muzzled when in a public place.

1st February 2024 – The deadline for applying for a valid exemption certificate to legally own or possess an XL Bully. Owners must also have third party public liability insurance in place and dogs must be neutered and microchipped unless they are too young.

31st March 2024 – Owners must ensure that their dog is microchipped and give the microchip number to DEFRA if their dog was under 8 weeks old when they applied for the exemption certificate.

30th June 2024 – Dogs more than 1 year old on 31st January 2024 must be neutered, and evidence of neutering must be given to DEFRA.

31st December 2024 – Dogs less than 1 year old on 31st January 2024 must be neutered, and evidence of neutering must be given to DEFRA.

Important Deadlines – Scotland

23rd February 2024 – From this point it will be illegal to breed; sell or exchange; give away; or abandon an XL Bully. Owners will also be required to ensure that their dog is muzzled and kept on a lead when in a public place.

31st July 2024 – This is the deadline for registering an XL Bully. It will then be an offence to own an XL Bully without an exemption certificate or having applied for an exemption certificate.

Dates for neutering and other requirements are yet to be announced in Scotland.


We would encourage you to take a proactive approach with complying with the new requirements relating to XL Bully ownership. However, if you do require any advice, our specialist criminal law solicitors are available to give you any advice required.



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