On 1st February 2024, the UK government officially implemented a new law making it a “criminal offence to own or possess an XL Bully dog in England and Wales unless you have a valid Certificate of Exemption.”
Owners in possession of an XL Bully who applied for a Certificate of Exemption before the deadline of 31stJanuary 2023, must adhere to certain regulations to retain ownership of their dog. This includes keeping the dog muzzled and on a lead in public at all times, keeping the dog in a secure place where there is no chance of escape, getting the dog microchipped, and getting the dog neutered by 31st June 2024 (unless under one year of age).
In accordance with the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the American XL Bully dog would be added to the list of breeds that have previously been banned under this same Act. Ultimately, this new law has recently come into place due to rising numbers of dog attacks believed to be associated with the XL Bully dog type.
The most recent fatal attack occurred on 3rd February 2024, after 68-year-old Esther Martin was killed by two dogs, which have since been officially confirmed as XL Bullies. Esther was visiting her 11-year-old grandson in Jaywick when the incident occurred. After the incident took place, 39-year-old Ashley Warren was arrested on suspicion of “dangerous dog offences" and has since been released on bail until March of this year.
Introduced in 1991, the Dangerous Dogs Act allowed certain dog types that were bred for the purpose of fighting to be banned. It became illegal to breed, rehome, sell, give away, or abandon dogs listed under this register. Anyone who owns a type of dog listed under this Act and does not keep them under control in public places can have their dog seized and taken away by legislative forces. Other dog breeds banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act include the following:
· Pit Bull Terrier
· Japanese Tosa
· Dogo Argentino
· Fila Brasileiro
It must be noted that this Act does not necessarily ban certain ‘breeds’; rather, it depends on a dog’s physical characteristics as to whether they are considered to be dangerous to the public. “For example, if your dog matches many of the characteristics of a Pit Bull Terrier, it may be a banned type.”
As there is no defined XL Bully breed as recognised by The Kennel Club, this has raised concerns amongst owners who suspect their dog may be categorised as an XL Bully. Since these types of dogs are crossbreeds, the UK government has created their own set of characteristics, including body size, coat, tail-set etc., which, if your dog meets these specifications, could be considered an XL Bully, and would therefore be banned under legislation.
According to the official government website, your dog could potentially be classified as an XL Bully if they have a broad, muscular body with a large chest and a blocky head, all of which would suggest “great strength and power for its size.”
In terms of height, if your dog stands at 20 inches (for adult males) or 19 inches (for adult females), it could be considered to be falling under the register of banned dogs. Height alone is not a telling factor; this must be considered against other defining characteristics. A standardised list of these characteristics can be found at Gov.UK.
So, if owners of XL Bully-type dogs do not adhere to these new cautionary restrictions, what legal measures will consequently be taken?
According to the Dangerous Dogs Act, your dog does not have to physically injure a person for an offence to take place. “If the dog jumps up and causes a scratch, or the person feels threatened or intimidated by the dog’s behaviour, owners could be found guilty of an offence.”
If owners of an XL Bully type who possess a Certificate of Exemption do not adhere to the new regulations, they could face criminal charges, including hefty fines or even imprisonment. These consequences are not limited to owners; dogs under this type of ban could potentially be seized by legislative authorities and, depending on the severity of an incident, could be euthanised.
While the XL Bully ban was implanted in an effort to reduce dog-related attacks, some people believe that effective change cannot occur just by banning one particular type of dog; therefore, different measures should be taken if we are to reduce these types of incidents.
Among those who are opposed to the sudden XL Bully restrictions is the University of Liverpool’s Chair in Human-Animal Interaction, Professor Carri Westgarth. According to Professor Westgarth, “the exemption scheme does not include an assessment of the dog’s temperament or the owner’s suitability to own a banned breed, as is the case with other banned breeds.”
Some charitable organisations – such as the Dog’s Trust and the RSPCA – have similarly stated their concerns over Sunak’s sudden ban on XL Bully dogs. Charities such as these have expressed their concern that owners have had very little time to prepare for these new measures, making it unfair to those who may have missed the application deadline for a Certificate of Exemption.
Since the ban was announced on 31st October 2023, Dog’s Trust has released an information page on their website, addressing commonly asked questions and concerns for owners who believe their dog may be classified as an XL Bully type. Information can be found here: Support for XL Bully owners.
Photo Credit: LN_Photoart, Pixabay
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