American XL Bully dogs officially banned following spate of attacks

American XL Bully dogs are officially banned following spate of attacks: Owning one without exemption certificate will be a criminal offence from February

  • Government publishes details of ‘staggered’ ban on breed linked to attacks
  • Experts legally define crossbreed as having a ‘muscular body and blocky head’
  • READ MORE: ‘This woman’s XL Bully tore my beloved Jack Russell to shreds’

American XL bully dogs are now officially banned – with offences established to outlaw the sale, breeding and giving away of the dogs and walking them off-lead.

The ban was promised by prime minister Rishi Sunak following a spate of high-profile attacks earlier this year including the savaging of an 11-year-old girl and the death of a man in Staffordshire at the hands of two of the dangerous dogs.

Defra says that under the new rules, which come into effect from December 31, it will be illegal to ‘breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon or allow XL Bully dogs to stray’ in England and Wales.

From the same date, existing XL Bully owners must keep their dogs on a lead and muzzled in public; the government is advising people to start training their dogs to wear a muzzle and walk on a lead comfortably, if they aren’t already trained. 

And from February 1, owning an XL Bully will be outlawed altogether unless owners register their animal on the Index of Exempted Dogs. The government says it has ‘staggered’ the dates to give existing owners time to prepare for the laws to come in.

The breeding and sale of American XL Bully dogs will be banned by the end of the year – with a ban on keeping them without a certificate following in February

Ian Price, 52, was mauled to death by two XL Bullies on September 14 – the ban on XL Bullies was announced by Rishi Sunak the next day

Ana Paun, 11, was attacked by an XL Bully as she walked home from buying sweets with her sister on September 11 in Birmingham

Jack Lis, 10, suffered fatal head and neck injuries after he was attacked by an XL Bully in Caerphilly in 2021; his mother has since campaigned for the breed to be banned

READ MORE: Male model whose two XL Bully dogs carried out frenzied attack on another dog leaving its owner ‘covered in blood and fur’ is jailed for four months 

Owners who want to keep their dogs will have until the end of January to register their dogs with the government, and from then on must follow strict rules.

Failing to follow the rules, or failing to register the dog on the index, will see owners potentially face criminal charges and an unlimited fine; their dogs can also be seized under the new laws. 

Dogs under one year old when the ban comes in must be neutered by the end of the year, while older dogs must be neutered by June.

The government says it will compensate owners who wish to have their dogs put down before the ban comes into effect. If owners do choose to euthanised their XL Bullies, they can claim £200 compensation to cover the costs.

Guidance has been published for existing owners of XL Bullies to advise them of what needs to be done ahead of time: all dogs matching the definition must be microchipped and neutered.

The government has also published what it says is the official definition of an XL Bully dog under UK law, following consultation with dog experts, vets, police and local councils.

It defines the animal as having ‘a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size…(it is a) powerfully built individual.’

Registering the dog on the Index of Exempted Dogs will cost £92.40; all registered owners must be over 16, and the animals must have an insurance policy covering injuries inflicted on other people.

Council dog wardens and police officers will be able to request to see the Certificate of Exemption – failure to do so within five days could lead to enforcement action.

Breeders have been given nine weeks to legally sell any puppies that were bred before the legislation was tabled in Parliament today; the government says breeders considering starting a fresh litter should stop now.

The ban comes following a series of high profile attacks on people committed by dogs believed to be XL Bullies.

Ian Price, 52, from Stonnall in Staffordshire, died after he was savaged by two XL Bully dogs in September; Rishi Sunak announced the ban on the mongrel crossbreed a day later.

A 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter following the attack and released on conditional bail; Staffordshire Police says the investigation is ongoing.

Days before Mr Price was killed, 11-year-old Ana Paun was mauled by another dog of the same breed as she walked home with her sister after buying sweets in Birmingham.

She said the dog had come at her ‘out of nowhere’ before locking its powerful jaws around her arm. She recalled: ‘I was screaming and screaming – I was petrified.’ 

In 2021, 10-year-old Jack Lis died from severe head and neck injuries after he was attacked by an XL Bully in Caerphilly; his mother, Emma Whitfield, has campaigned for the dogs to be banned.

In March 2021, 17-month-old Bella-Rae Birch was mauled to death by her family’s XL Bully in St Helen’s.

A number of other attacks said to involve XL Bully-type dogs have occurred since the ban was announced in mid-September.

News of the ban was welcomed by many, including Jack Lis’ mother Emma Whitfield, but was opposed by animal charities, who say breed-specific bans are not effective.

The Dog Control Coalition – which is made up of RSPCA, Blue Cross, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Hope Rescue, the Scottish SPCA, The Kennel Club and BVA – said ‘banning the breed will sadly not stop these types of incidents recurring.’ 

XL Bully owners who insist their animals are not dangerous even took to the streets in protest – but left their pets at home.

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: ‘We are taking quick and decisive action to protect the public from tragic dog attacks and today I have added the XL Bully type to the list of dogs prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

‘It will soon become a criminal offence to breed, sell, advertise, rehome or abandon an XL Bully type dog, and they must also be kept on a lead and muzzled in public. 

‘In due course it will also be illegal to own one of these dogs without an exemption.

‘We will continue to work closely with the police, canine and veterinary experts, and animal welfare groups, as we take forward these important measures.’

This is a breaking news story – more to follow.

How the government has defined an XL Bully 

As a ‘mongrel’ crossbreed not recognised by the Kennel Club, XL Bullies are difficult to define.

But under guidelines published today by Defra, the following can be used to determine whether a dog is legally recognised as a banned animal:

General impression

Large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size. Powerfully built individual.


Adult male from 20in (51 cm) at the withers

Adult female from 19in (48cm) at the withers


Heavy, large and broad

The length from the tip of the nose to a well-defined stop (indentation between muzzle and the head) is equal to around a 1/3 of the length from the stop to the back of the head

Muzzle blocky or slightly squared to fall away below the eyes

Topline of muzzle straight

Prominent cheek muscles with strong, well-defined jaws and lips semi-close

Often having prominent wrinkles on face

Nose is large with well opened nostrils


Level or scissor bite.


Heavy, muscular, slightly arched, tapering from the shoulders to the base of the skull

Medium in length


Shoulder blades are long, well-muscled and well laid back

Upper arm length is about equal to the length of the shoulder blades and joined at a 35 to 45 angle to the ground

Front legs straight, strong and very muscular with dog standing high on the pasterns (area between feet and ankles)

Elbows set close to the body

Distance from the withers to elbows about the same as the distance from the elbow to the bottom of the feet



Large, blocky body giving impression of great power for size

Broad, deep chest with well sprung ribs

Chest may be wider than deep

Topline level and straight

Loin short and firm

Generally appears square shaped from point of the shoulder to the point of the buttocks compared with the withers (tallest point on the dogs body excluding head and shoulders) to the ground


Strong, muscular and broad

Thighs well developed with thick musculature

From behind, both pasterns are typically straight and parallel to each other

Muscular development, angulation and width in balance with forequarters


Rounded, medium in size and in proportion to body

Compact and well arched


Medium length and low set

Tapers to a point to end at about the level of the hocks

Generally assumes a straight or pump handle shape when dog relaxed


Glossy, smooth, close, single


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