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RSPCA urges XL Bully owners to get prepared for ban

From 31 December 2023 it will become illegal to breed, give away or sell an XL Bully in England and Wales.

The RSPCA is reminding  XL Bully dog owners of key dates which will affect their pets. The Government has stated it will be a requirement for an XL Bully to be muzzled and on a lead when in a public place from 31 December 2023 and it will be against the law after this date to:

  • sell an XL Bully dog

  • abandon an XL Bully dog or let them stray

  • give away an XL Bully dog

  • breed from an XL Bully dog

  • have an XL Bully dog in public without a lead and muzzle

Then from 1 February 2024 it will be illegal to own an XL Bully in England and Wales, unless your dog has a valid Certificate of Exemption.

The RSPCA, which is opposed to the ban, is reminding XL Bully owners that they will be required to have their dogs muzzled and on a lead when in a public place from 1 January 2024 and that the deadline for getting a certificate of exemption is looming and only six weeks away.

The UK Government has published its official definition on the XL Bully, which can be viewed on the Defra website.  These guidelines state that an XL Bully is of a certain height – (minimum height is a mandatory requirement): with specific features on their face, teeth, neck, forequarters, body, hindquarters, feet, tail and coat.

The RSPCA is opposed to this ban and don’t believe it is effective in protecting the public and do not agree with the broad legal definition of the XL Bully but the charity has to comply with the law and are committed to supporting dog owners in need of help.

Dr Samantha Gaines, dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “It is so important that owners of an XL Bully start getting prepared for the exemption process as soon as possible. As of the 1st of January, XL Bullies will need to be on a lead and muzzled when in a public place so it is critical that owners are working with their dogs to help them get used to this change.

“Owners of dogs will then have until 31 January to apply for exemption as after this date it will be illegal to own an XL bully which is not exempted, which sadly means that you could get a criminal record, your dog could be seized and you could face an unlimited fine. All details about how to do this are on the Government website.”

Owners of an XL bully can apply for exemption on the Government website. There is a fee of £92.40 per dog and a requirement to have third party public liability insurance for banned breeds. The Dogs Trust has information on its website about this type of insurance which will be helpful.

In order to meet the requirements of the exemption certificate XL Bully owners will need to meet the below – although depending on your dog’s age, extra time will be allowed in order to get your dog neutered.

• The dog is neutered

• The dog is microchipped

• Third party insurance is obtained

• A certificate of exemption is issued

• To keep the dog at the same address as the registered keeper except for up to 30 days in 12 months

• Notify the agency of any change of address

• Notify the agency of the death or export of the dog

• Keep the dog muzzled and on a lead when in a public place

• Keep the dog in sufficiently secure conditions to prevent escape

A breach of any of these conditions will mean that the dog is no longer exempted and could be seized by police and put to sleep.

The RSPCA would also advise owners to prepare their dog for the conditions – and suggests getting their  pet used to wearing a muzzle by introducing this gradually and positively so it  doesn’t feel uncomfortable with it on.

Find an ABTC registered clinical animal behaviourist

Anyone concerned about their dog’s behaviour should speak to their vet and they can refer pet owners to an ABTC registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist if necessary.

Sam added: “We have long campaigned against Breed Specific Legislation, which bans dogs simply due to the way they look. This has failed to effectively protect the public and animal’s welfare and have seen countless dogs who have not shown aggression lose their lives. Our position around banning XL Bullies is the same – we don’t believe this will effectively protect the public or animal welfare.

“We have experienced an unprecedented number of visitors – more than 50,000 unique visits – to our XL Bully advice web page since the page went live in early September. In addition, people are spending far longer looking at the page – an average of three minutes – than other pages on our website.

“We believe this indicates the deep concern and desire for clarity from pet owners over the recently-announced XL Bully legislation; and the need for the UK Government to offer as much information and support as possible at this time of great uncertainty for owners.

“Already, there are anecdotal reports of dogs being surrendered or abandoned across the rescue sector – and we fear as the deadline for the XL Bully dog looms, this problem is going to get worse.

“While we are doing all we can to reassure owners, there remains confusion around how best to interpret the UK Government’s definition of an XL Bully. While it is now clearer that minimum height is a mandatory requirement for a dog to be defined as an XL Bully, there has been no guidance to help owners understand what is meant by a substantial number of the other characteristics being used to decide whether or not a dog is considered ‘type’.

“The ban on XL Bully  dogs not only remains devastating for so many dogs, but is also taking a heavy toll on owners, on rescue centre staff who have grown close to dogs in their care, and to veterinary teams who face the prospect of being asked to put to sleep healthy dogs whose behaviour poses no risk.

“There is a huge risk that rescue centres and the veterinary profession will not be able to cope with the demands put on them by this law. We urgently need more information and support from the UK Government so that we can help support owners and dogs affected by this ban but we will also need help and support to get through this too.”

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RSPCA urges XL Bully owners to get prepared for ban

dog food and walking lead
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