XL Bully type breeds: Preparing for the new legislation and update to our services

24th November 2023

The UK government have ruled that XL Bully type dogs will soon be added to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 with effect from 31st December 2023. The government has decided this action is needed to mitigate potential risks to public safety. The UK government through DEFRA have now released specific rules and guidelines that owners of these dogs must follow.

In this blog, we will explore the key aspects of these regulations, the changes to our services and advise on how pet owners can prepare for the changes.

There are two key dates to note:

From 31st December 2023 it will be against the law to:

  • Sell an XL Bully type dog
  • Abandon an XL Bully type dog or let it stray
  • Give away an XL Bully type dog
  • Breed from an XL Bully type dog
  • Have an XL Bully type in public without a lead and muzzle

From 1st February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully type dog in England and Wales unless your dog has a Certificate of Exemption.

It will also be a criminal offence whether you are the owner or not, to be in a public place with an XL Bully type breed without a Certificate of Exemption and specific third-party insurance for that type of dog.

XL Bully type breed criteria

How to check if your dog may be considered an ‘XL bully type’ breed:

The UK government has set out the characteristics of what it deems to be an ‘XL bully type’ breed, some of which are as follows:

  • Large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size. Powerfully built individual.
  • A height from 20in (51 cm) at the withers for adult male, and from 19in (48cm) at the withers for adult female.

For the full defined description click here.

Due to the broad nature of the characteristics, unfortunately some dogs may fall into what has been defined as an XL Bully type breed. We therefore recommend that you register your dog for exemption if it shares a substantial number of the assessed characteristics. If your dog shares a substantial number of characteristics in the official definition, and you do not have a Certificate of Exemption, then you risk it being seized and ultimately, euthanised. We urge you to check the official definition and consider whether your dog could fall into this category. Please be aware that some cross-bred dogs from breeds such as Boxers or Staffordshire bull terriers could meet the defined criteria.

Preparing for the Changes:

If you suspect your dog may fall into the category of what has been defined as an ‘XL bully-type’ breed you will need to comply with the following:

  1. Public Liability Insurance: Obtain third party public liability insurance, this insurance must be specific for a banned breed (More details here)
  2. Neutered: Have your dog spayed / neutered, you will need to have your vet confirm they have been neutered by completing a VCN01 form found here. (Please note: this is age specific)
  3. Application fee: You will need to pay the £92.40 per dog for a Certificate of Exemption, this can be paid here.
  4. Certificate of Exemption: Apply for a Certificate of Exemption here.

Furthermore to keep an XL bully type breed they must be:

  • Microchipped
  • Kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public
  • Kept in a secure place so it cannot escape
  • They can only be walked on a one dog to one handler basis at all times

Any breach of the Certificate of Exemption rules will mean that the dog is no longer exempt and you risk your dog being seized and euthanised.



What happens if I miss the deadline to apply for a Certificate of Exemption?

The owner (or if a different person in charge of the dog) will be committing a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence of up to 6 months and/or an unlimited fine. The dog will be seized by the police, and it is likely that it will be euthanised unless you can prove, to the satisfaction of a court, that it is not a danger to public safety. Furthermore, you will be required to prove that there is good reason for missing the deadline for applications. The court will not permit ignorance or lack of knowledge as a defence.

So what is a public place?

This has not yet been clarified by DEFRA, however using current legislation which is in existence, ‘a public place’, as defined by the Criminal Justice Act 1972 – Section 33, States “includes any highway and any other premises or place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise.”

What does this actually mean? We believe a public place will be any space or location outside of the designated home address. This will included traveling in a vehicle.

Will XL Bully type dogs be required to wear a muzzle and lead at all times in public?

Unless DEFRA make a specific exemption the answer will be yes.

What does this mean for our customers?

Update to our services surrounding ‘XL bully type’ breeds:

Petpals are committed to ensuring the highest standards of ethical pet care in the UK and therefore have and always will be fully compliant with any animal welfare and/or public safety concerns and legislation.

Due to the new regulations, Petpals may only walk an XL bully type breed if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • The XL bully type breed has been issued with an exemption certificate
  • The owner of the XL bully type breed has specific third party Public Liability Insurance for said dog
  • All guidelines under the index of exempted dogs are strictly adhered to and the dog must be:
  • Neutered
  • Micro Chipped
  • Kept on a lead and muzzled at all times
  • Kept in a secure place, so it cannot escape

Please note:
The XL bully breed will only be walked on a 1-1 basis and never as part of a group walk.

Furthermore, it is at the discretion of each of our franchisees whether they will accept an XL bully type breed for the purposes of providing pet care, even if the above criteria are adhered to.

Every dog undergoes a full pet care assessment prior to joining Petpals for their walks or other pet care services provided to assess their suitability.



While the new regulations surrounding XL Bully type dogs may seem stringent, they are implemented with the welfare of both the public and animals in mind. Responsible ownership, education, and proactive preparation will play pivotal roles in successfully navigating these changes. By adhering to the guidelines, pet owners can contribute to a safer and more harmonious coexistence between XL Bully type dogs and the public.