Why are XL bullies banned in the UK?

XL bully
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Something that’s been in the news a lot in the UK recently is the decision of the government to ban XL bully dogs in the country. 

People with these dogs are required to muzzle them in public at all times, even if they’re already on one of the best dog leashes, and apply for the government’s exemption scheme by the end of January. 

The dogs – the largest category of dogs in the American Bully breed – join the other four breeds banned in the UK per the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: the Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino, and the Fila Brasileiro. 

The XL bully isn’t recognized as a specific breed in the UK, however. Meanwhile, the American Bully Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association both have different definitions too. So, even if a dog wasn’t sold as an XL bully, or if they’re a crossbreed that looks more like an XL bully than another type of dog, but meets certain characteristics as laid out by the government, they may be affected by the ban. 

It’s a controversial decision, with many XL bully parents protesting against the ban. But, why are XL bullies being banned in the UK? 

What does the ban mean? And why is it happening?

The government says that the ban is to “protect the public from tragic dog attacks.” There are no official statistics on dog attacks by breed, but the government says that there have been 23 deaths caused by dog attacks since the beginning of 2021, with XL bully dogs disproportionately involved. 

There have been some high-profile cases of children and adults being killed by XL bully dogs, either their own or somebody else’s. 

Some medical and veterinary experts have explained that the wounds and injuries caused by XL bullies are often worse than those caused by other dogs, due to the dogs’ powerful jaws that grip strongly, and can result in broken bones and nerve damage. 

The Dog Control Coalition, a group comprising a number of charities and organizations, has called for an overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act, arguing that blanket bans on breeds don’t work, and aren’t fair on responsible owners. It proposes a lessened focus on specific breeds, but tougher penalties on irresponsible owners.

While groups like this one are clear on the government’s new rules, there is a lot of misinformation spreading on social media. Some people mistakenly believe that all XL bully dogs are required to be euthanized, for example, which isn’t the case.

XL bully parents have the option to euthanize their dog, and would receive £200 (around $255) in compensation, but this is just one potential choice. Breeding, selling, advertising, rehoming, abandoning, and allowing an XL bully to stray are now all illegal, and from the beginning of February 2024, ownership of an XL bully dog will become illegal unless the dog parent applies for exemption. 

As well as leashing and muzzling XL bullies in public, they must also be neutered and microchipped. If dog parents don’t comply with the new rules, they may be fined and have their dog seized. 

Scotland has also announced a ban, along with England and Wales, joining other countries including Ireland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates which all have legislation strictly controlling XL bully dogs. 

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Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at DogTime.com, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.