XL Bullies

The Dangerous Dogs (Designated Types)(England & Wales) Order 2023  came into force on 31.12.2023. The order adds XL Bullies to the list of prohibited types of dogs in England and Wales.

From 31.12.2023 it became unlawful to sell, gift, exchange, abandon, allow to stray, breed from or have in public without a lead and muzzle and from 1.02.2024 it became unlawful to possess an XL Bully that has not been through the exemption process and the conditions of exemption complied with.

Exemption was by direct application to the Index of Exempted Dogs at Defra and it was left up to owners to decide whether or not their dogs were XL Bullies with the government advising a precautionary approach.  The window for a direct application to Defra for an exemption certificate has now closed.

How do I know if my dog is an XL Bully? 

Although there were already several XL breed standards already published, the government have drafted their own standard for the XL Bully. This standard has been criticised as being too vague as it is likely to result in many dogs who are not XL Bullies falling within the definition. The government has said that the confirmation standard will not apply to recognised breeds such as those recognised by the Royal Kennel Club, even though they may meet some of the characteristics. However, this leaves breeds like American bulldogs at risk as they are not recognised by the Royal Kennel Club.

The government breed standard for the XL Bully:


If you are unsure whether your dog is an XL Bully, we can arrange for an expert to assess your dog and provide you with a report setting out their findings.

Please contact us on 01442 242999 or at hello@wheldonlaw.co.uk for further information.

Rescue organisations and XL Bullies 

The original draft of the exemption scheme only allowed for the owner, who had to be a natural person, to apply for exemption but following a legal challenge by way of a judicial review, the rules were amended by the  Dangerous Dogs (Exemption Schemes & Miscellaneous Provisions) (England & Wales) (Amendment) Order 2024 which extended the exemption provisions and allowed rescue and rehoming organisations to apply for exemption for XL Bullies that came into their possession on or before 30.12.2024.

Applications for exemption from rescue centres had to be made by 22.01.2024.

Rescue centres cannot rehome exempted dogs, so the dogs will have to be permanently kept at the rescue or be euthanised.

When does my dog have to be neutered?

In England & Wales dogs aged over 12 months on 31.01.2024 must be neutered by 30.06.2024. Dogs aged 7 to 12 months on 31.01.2024 must be neutered by 31.12.2024.  Dogs aged under 7 months old on 31.01.2024 must be neutered by 30.06.2025.

Evidence of neutering must be provided to Defra before the deadline.

What if I missed the deadline for exempting my XL Bully?

The deadline for making an application for exemption was 22 January 2024.  If you missed the deadline for getting your XL Bully exempted, it is still possible to go through the exemption process, but it will now have to go through the courts.  This may be by way of a prosecution being brought against you under section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, or by way of a civil application being brought under section 4B Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.  The civil application is a much quicker process and avoids the owner getting a criminal record or any sort of punishment however, legal aid is not available for the civil application.

We can guide you through the whole process.  It may be that your dog does not meet the required standard for an XL Bully so the first step is to arrange for a dog behaviourist and breed identification expert to carry out an assessment of your dog to see whether or not it falls within the definition of an XL Bully.

If the expert finds that your dog is an XL Bully then the next step is to make contact with the police and make representations to them to deal with your case under the civil proceedings and without seizing your dog (for an application to be made under section 4B the dog has to be seized, but this seizure can be a momentary one with the dog being immediately released back to the owner).  We have excellent contacts within the police and work with some of the best canine behaviourists in the country.  As always, our aim is to secure the best possible outcome for you and your dog.

What happens if I die, or can no longer look after my XL Bully?

With the 4 other types of prohibited dog, it is possible, in limited circumstances, to appoint a new keeper for your dog if you die or if you become seriously ill and no longer able to look after the dog.  Unfortunately, XL Bullies are treated differently under the exemption scheme and it would appear that it is not possible to appoint a new keeper for an XL Bully in England and Wales in any circumstances.  We believe that this is something that is capable of legal challenge so if you are unwell and no longer able to look after your XL Bully, or if you are in possession of an XL Bully because the owner has died, then we would love to hear from you.

How Can Wheldon Law Help You?

For many people, dogs are not just pets, they are an important and beloved member of their family. As such, we must strive to ensure that their safety and well-being is always protected. Unfortunately, despite dog owners’ best efforts, accidents and mishaps do still occur. However, if your dog does happen to cause a problem, there is no need to worry as Wheldon Law will be on hand to offer our legal expertise. We will provide the expert guidance you need to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your dog.

Call us today on 01442 242999 for some free initial advice to our solicitors in hemel hempstead, or email us at hello@wheldonlaw.co.uk