Luna, the XL bully, behind a measuring tape

XL bully ban explained

On Friday 15 September, the Prime Minister announced that American bully XL types will be added to dog breed types banned in the UK by the end of 2023.

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This information will be updated as we further understand the government’s plans. Here’s what we know so far.

The government has now added XL bully types to the list of banned dangerous dogs in England and Wales. This means that from 31 December 2023 it will be illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon or allow XL bully type dogs to stray. The ban does not currently apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

If you currently have an XL bully type, from 31 December 2023 you’ll be required to keep your dog on a lead and muzzled when they are walked in public. You’ll also need apply for the government’s exemption scheme by 31 January 2024 to get your dog exempted and comply with additional restrictions including having them neutered and having third party liability insurance.

From 1 February 2024 it will be illegal to own an XL bully type without a certificate of exemption.

What is an XL bully?

An American bully XL, known as an XL bully, is the largest of the American bully types. They are not a registered breed with the Kennel Club in the UK and are a type of dog that has been bred from several different dog breeds.

Will my dog be ‘typed’ as an XL bully?

XL bullies are crossbreeds and Kennel Club breed standards do not exist. There are currently no exact specifications for this type of dog. The government has therefore created its own specifications for the breed, which includes the size of their head and muzzle, their build, and the height and length of their body. Breed name, genetics and parentage are not considered.

The government has confirmed that the minimum height specified is a necessary requirement to meet the XL bully type specifications. The height should be measured from the ground to your dog’s withers (the top of the shoulders). For adult males this is from 20 inches, and females from 19 inches. If your dog does not meet this height requirement, they will not be typed as an XL bully. If they do, assess them against the rest of the specifications.

Read about the government’s specifications

What if I own an XL bully?

You’ll need to apply to the government’s exemption scheme and pay for a certificate of exemption which will cost £92.40. You will also need to make sure:

  • your dog is microchipped and neutered (by the deadlines provided)
  • they are kept on a lead and muzzled in a public place, including in cars
  • they are kept in a secure place so they cannot escape
  • you have third party public liability insurance cover for your dog

You also need to be at least 16 years old to own an XL bully type.

Checking whether your dog is an XL bully type

If you currently own an XL bully type, crossbreed or a dog that looks similar, first check the government’s specifications on XL bully type dogs

We recommend measuring your dog’s height from the ground to the withers first. If they meet the minimum height requirement, you should proceed with assessing them against the rest of the specifications.

Suffolk Centre Manager, Charles, demonstrates measuring Martha's height (she is not an XL bully type).

A suspected XL bully breed type does not need to fit the specifications exactly. If your dog meets the height measurements and a substantial number of the characteristics in the government’s definition, it could be considered an XL bully breed type.

If you’re concerned your dog might fall into these specifications, the government recommends taking a precautionary approach and applying for exemption. You should contact your local Dog Legislation Officer (DLO) for more advice.


If your dog is another established breed recognised by the UK Kennel Club with some similar characteristics to an XL bully, you do not need to worry about the ban, however crossbreeds might be affected.

Applying for the exemption scheme

You can now apply for the government’s exemption scheme which entitles you to receive a certificate of exemption for your dog. This costs £92.40.

As part of the application you’ll be asked to provide:

  • details for your dog (eg name and age)
  • their microchip number - ask your vet if you're unsure about this
  • third party public liability insurance start date
  • proof of neutering (by the dates below)
  • your details and date of birth (you need to be at least 16 years old to own an XL bully type)

We do not yet know how long it will take for the government to process applications, so we recommend applying as soon as possible if your dog meets the specifications of an XL bully type. This will make sure your dog meets the legal requirement by the deadline of 31 January 2024.

Apply for the exemption scheme

Can my dog leave the exemption scheme?

The government has now confirmed that there will be a way of leaving the exemption scheme. You’ll still have to have an exemption certificate if your dog meets “a substantial number” of the criteria of an XL bully type. But if you apply as a precaution and find out your dog does not need to be exempted, you will be able to apply to leave.

We are waiting for more details from Defra on this process, but it's unlikely your fee will be refunded.


Check that your dog is microchipped and that your name, address and contact details are up to date.


Ask your vet for proof of neutering using this form. Your vet may charge for this service.

You’ll need to submit the form to Defra by 30 June 2024 if your dog is older than one on 31 January 2024. You’ll need to submit the form to Defra by 31 December 2024 if your dog is younger than one on 31 January 2024.

If your dog is not neutered, speak to your vet about scheduling in this procedure as soon as possible.

  • If your dog is less than one year old on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered and you must return a completed form to Defra by 31 December 2024
  • If your dog is older than one on 31 January 2024, they must be neutered and you must return a completed form to Defra by 30 June 2024 

Third party public liability insurance cover

You’ll need to take out third party liability insurance for your dog which protects you if your dog injures another person. Dogs Trust provide this through their membership scheme.

Muzzle training

Your dog will also need to wear a muzzle when out in public, including in cars, and be walked on a lead at all times.

If you have not already started, you can get your dog used to wearing a muzzle gradually by using positive reward-based training so that it’s a good experience for you and your dog.

More advice on muzzle training

Keeping your dog on lead

Your dog must be kept on a lead in public places and must be held by someone at least 16 years old. The law does not say how long your lead needs to be, but your dog must be in control so long leads may be interpreted as breaking the terms of your exemption.

Breeding XL bully types

From 31 December 2023, it will be illegal to breed from, sell, abandon and give away an XL bully type. If puppies are born after the 31 December, you’ll have to keep the puppies or have a vet put them to sleep.

Speaking to your housing provider

Many councils and housing associations do not allow dogs that fall under the Dangerous Dogs Act, even if they have proved to the court that they are not a danger to the public. Check with your landlord, housing association or council to find out their plans once the ban comes into force.

More on the government’s XL bully ban

What about unowned dogs?

The Dangerous Dogs Act makes it illegal to own a banned type unless they are exempt, but it also makes it illegal to breed from, rehome or sell these dogs. We continue to be concerned that the Dangerous Dogs Act penalises innocent dogs.

Heartbreakingly, the current legislation means that from 31 December 2023 rehoming centres like ours cannot rehome XL bullies, even when they're well behaved and well socialised.

Help us raise awareness of the challenges of this legislation by emailing your MP in a few easy steps.

Email your MP

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• 30 November 2023

Next review

• 22 December 2023

Approved by
Alison Thomas

Veterinary Surgeon MRCVS

Approved by
Ryan Neile

Head of Behaviour Services