Support for XL Bully owners
What to do if you own an American Bully XL
American Bully XL ban: what to do if you own an American Bully XL
We understand that the Government’s ban on American Bully XL type dogs is very unsettling. We will continue to support American Bulldog XL type dog owners with our programme of practical support and advice, which includes free muzzle training, and help them to understand the ban, giving them the best chance of staying together with their dog when the ban is legally enforced.
We will keep this page up to date with the latest information and advice.
What has the Government proposed?
On Tuesday 31 October, the Government announced that the American Bully XL type dog has been added to the banned breeds list in England and Wales.
From 31 December 2023 breeding, selling, advertising, rehoming, abandoning and allowing an American Bully XL dog to stray will be illegal. From this date, these dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public.
From 1 February 2024, it will then become illegal to own an American Bully XL dog if it is not registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs.
What happens if I own an American Bully XL?
From 1 February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully in England and Wales unless you have a Certificate of Exemption for your dog. Owners will have until 31 January 2024 to apply for this exemption. See ‘How do I apply for a Certificate of Exemption’ below to find out how.
We know this is worrying if you own a dog who could be classed as an American Bully XL but try to stay calm. See ‘Support from Dogs Trust’ below for more information about our support and how we can help owners prepare for the ban.
Check if your dog is an American Bully XL type dog. Use the Government’s Official definition of an XL Bully dog to identify if your dog may be that type. This involves checking the dog’s physical characteristics such as its size and height. See ‘How will I know if my dog will be classed as an American Bully XL?’ below for more information.
To keep an American Bully XL dog, you must ensure they are:
- neutered (If your dog is less than one year old on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If your dog is older than one year old on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered by 30 June 2024. We recommend that you arrange for your dog to be neutered as soon as possible, when they are old enough.)
- kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public
- kept in a secure place so that they can’t escape.
And owners must:
- have third party liability insurance against your dog injuring other people
- be aged over 16
- show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or council dog warden, either at the time or within 5 days
- let the Index of Exempt Dogs know if you change address, or if your dog dies.
If you own an American Bully XL type dog, you can start preparing by making sure your dog is neutered, microchipped and trained to wear a muzzle. You can also obtain third party liability insurance, see below for more information about getting this through our Companion Club. We are unable to offer a subsidised neutering scheme or a microchipping service.
You can find more information about preparing for the ban on the Government’s website.
How will I know if my dog will be classed as an American Bully XL?
The law is concerned with the type of dog rather than the breed, and prohibited types are identified according to their appearance rather than their breed name, genetics (DNA), or parentage. The Government has developed an official definition of an American Bully XL. It includes details on height, shape and other features.
Height is an important factor: if your dog is smaller than the height specified in the Government’s definition then they are not an American Bully XL, and you don’t need to look at any other aspects in the definition. The height should be measured from the ground to the withers (which means the point of the body immediately behind the neck, at the top of the shoulders), not any higher point on the dog.
The Government has defined an American XL Bully as:
- Adult male from 20in (51 cm) at the withers
- Adult female from 19in (48cm) at the withers
If your dog is larger than this height, then they still may not be an American Bully XL. You need to look at all the other elements of the definition, as dogs need to meet a substantial number of the characteristics to be considered to be an American Bully XL.
Glossary of language used in Government definition:
- Bite: the relative position of the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed.
- Coat: the hairy outer covering of the skin.
- Croup: part of the back from the front of the pelvis to root of the tail.
- Forequarters: the front part of dog excluding head and neck.
- Hindquarters: rear part of dog from behind the loin.
- Loin: the region between the last rib and the beginning of the pelvis.
- Muzzle: the length from the tip of the nose to the stop.
- Pasterns: the pastern is the lower part of the foreleg, just above the foot and below the wrist. Similarly, in the hind leg, the pastern is the portion located above the foot and below the heel (also known as the hock). Every canine possesses a pair of front and rear pasterns.
- Scissor bite: the upper front teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
- Spring of rib: degree of curvature of rib cage.
- Tail set: the position of the tail on the croup.
- Topline: an outline after the withers to the tail set. Viewed from the side of the dog or from above.
- Withers: the highest point of body immediately behind the neck where height is measured.
How do I apply for a Certificate of Exemption?
From 1 February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully in England and Wales unless you have a Certificate of Exemption for your dog.
You can apply via the Government’s website, through their online portal or by downloading the form to apply by post. The deadline for online applications is 12 noon on 31 January 2024. If applying by post, your application must arrive before 15 January 2024.
Through the online form you can apply for up to three dogs in one go. If you have more than three dogs, you will need to repeat the process to apply for the remaining dogs. By post you can apply for up to 30 dogs at a time. For example, if you have five dogs, you can apply for three in one go, then apply again for the remaining two.
Before you apply for a Certificate of Exemption you must:
- Pay the £92.40 application fee for each dog you want to apply for — you’ll need your 10 digit payment reference number.
- Have third party public liability insurance for banned breeds of dogs — you’ll need to know the start date of your insurance, If you are part of our Companion Club (formerly called our Membership Scheme), our third party public liability insurance covers up to four dogs. The start date of your insurance is the date that your payment cleared to join the Companion Club. If you need help to confirm your insurance start date or policy number, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We're dealing with a large volume of enquiries so please bear with us, we'll get back to you within 5 working days.
- Have your dog microchipped — you’ll need to provide their microchip number. To find their microchip number, check the dog’s vaccination record or ask a vet. (If your dog is less than 8 weeks old when you apply for a Certificate of Exemption, you’ll have until 31 March 2024 to give the microchip number.)
You’ll also need to provide evidence your dog has been neutered. For your Certificate of Exemption to remain valid, you and your vet must complete a VCN01 form and return to Defra by the dates below. You can download the form from the Government’s website.
- If your dog is less than 1 year old on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered and the VCN01 form received by Defra by 31 December 2024.
- If your dog is more than 1 year old on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered and the VCN01 form received by Defra by 30 June 2024
Which types of dogs are already banned in the UK?
The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991 and gave the Government the power to ban any breed appearing to be bred for fighting or to have the characteristics of a type bred for that purpose. Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, these breed types are banned in the UK:
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
It’s illegal to breed, sell, give away or abandon a banned type of dog.
If you own a currently banned breed type, and don’t have a certificate of exemption to keep them, the police can seize the dog and keep them, even if they’re not acting dangerously and no complaint has been made. A court process is then needed to determine if the dog poses a danger to the public and if the owner can apply for an exemption certificate.
Support from Dogs Trust
We’re here for all dog lovers and we’ll do everything we can to support American Bully XL dogs and their owners.
We’ll keep this page updated as we learn more about the Government’s plans to ban XL Bullies. To stay up to date on our latest news and updates on topics that affect you, sign up to receive our newsletter.
Third Party Insurance for owners of banned breed types
Our Companion Club (formerly called our Membership Scheme) provides third party public liability insurance cover to fully paid up companions (which costs £25 a year) which includes banned breed types that are registered in the Index of Exempted dogs (which is run by Defra). The Third Party Public Liability cover offers up to £1million per claim (subject to legal liability being established against you) if your dog causes damage or injury to another person, their property or person (an excess of £200 applies for the UK and £500 in the Republic of Ireland) but the cover is subject to any changes insurers make. Find out more about Companion Club
The third party public liability insurance included within our Companion Club currently meets the insurance needs within the conditions of exemption. It covers all dogs including banned dogs that have been exempted. Owners of American Bully XLs will currently be covered under the Companion Club insurance but this may be subject to change when a ban comes into effect.
We can only provide certificates of insurance for a breed type included within the Dangerous Dogs Act. When the law requires owners of American Bully XLs to have third party public liability insurance, and provided our insurers are happy to provide cover, we will be able to provide a certificate of insurance.
If you are part of our Companion Club (formerly called our Membership Scheme), our third party public liability insurance covers up to four dogs. The start date of your insurance is the date that your payment cleared to join the Companion Club. If you need help to confirm your insurance start date or policy number, email us on email@example.com
Behaviour and training advice
Our Behaviour Support Line can offer you help and advice about your dog's behaviour and we can signpost you to our services that can provide specialist support.
If you own an American Bully XL type dog, you can start preparing by making sure your dog is trained to wear a muzzle and calm and comfortable on a lead. Successful muzzle training takes time and patience, so it really helps to start as soon as you can.
To help you prepare, we’re offering a range of muzzle training options:
Free muzzle training webinars
- information about the most suitable types of muzzle
- how to ensure a good fit
- how to teach your dog to enjoy wearing their muzzle
- a Q&A where you can ask questions to help you prepare.
Discounted 1-2-1 muzzle training sessions
These one-hour sessions are available face-to-face and virtually, providing tailored coaching to help you train your dog to wear a muzzle. For owners of American Bully XL type dogs we're offering these sessions at a 50% discount.
How to train your dog to wear a muzzle
How to stop your dog pulling on the lead
Neutering and microchipping
If you own an American Bully XL type dog, it’s important your dog is neutered and microchipped. Speak to your vet for advice on neutering and microchipping. We are unable to offer a subsidised neutering scheme or a microchipping service.
Why neuter your dog?
All you need to know about microchipping
Staying safe around dogs
We run an online masterclass to help children and dogs live safely together. Find out more about keeping children safe around dogs and book a masterclass.