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American Bully XL – Members’ Frequently Asked Questions

American Bully XL – Members’ Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated

03 January 2024

We have been taking questions about the forthcoming American Bully XL ban since it was first announced. We know that members have a lot of questions about what this means for them, their dogs, the dogs they may have adopted out and dogs and owners in their communities seeking advice. We have put below a list of frequently asked questions. Sadly, some of these questions do not have answers – but we believe that it is best that Members are aware where this is the case.

We will update these as more details become clear.

If you have any other questions that are not answered on this page, please get in touch.

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What are the timescales for the ban?

14 November 2023

Members of the public who own American Bully XLs can now apply for exempting their dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. This involves filling out a form, ensuring their dog is microchipped, getting the dog neutered or proof from a veterinarian that it is neutered, paying a £92.40 fee and getting third party liability insurance, which must start by 1st February 2024.

31 December 2023

After this date any identified American Bully XLs will be prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act and it will be illegal to sell, advertise, give away, abandon, breed or rehome these dogs. Any rescue organisations will no longer be able to rehome Bully XLs after this date.

15 January 2024

After this date postal applications will no longer be accepted to exempt an American Bully XL. Electronic applications will be open until 31 January 2024.

22 January 2024

Rescues have until this date to register any dogs in their care that they wish to care for for life, the dog must have been in their care by 30 December 2023 and the rescue must be able to evidence that they were in operation on 31 October 2023.

31 January 2024

After this date it will be illegal to own an American Bully XL unless it has been exempted under the exemption scheme. Any dog that is exempted must be muzzled in a public place, neutered, microchipped and under the control of an adult.

15 March 2024

Final date for claiming £100 compensation for rescues or £200 compensation for private individual owners of American Bully XLs.

30 June 2024

Any XL Bully type dog over one year old on 31 January 2024 will have to be neutered by this date.

31 December 2024

Any XL Bully type dog under one year old on 31 January 2024 will have to be neutered by this date.

What advice does ADCH have for rescues looking to keep an exempted American Bully XL for life?

ADCH has produced an advice note of considerations when caring for American Bully XLs in rescue for life, the closing date for exemption applications is now 22 January 2024. Please see here.

How do the two legal challenges to the law change things?

The dates for exempting an American Bully XL for life have now changed. Rescues have until 22 January 2024 to register any dogs in their care that they wish to care for for life, the dog must have been in their care by 30 December 2023 and the rescue must be able to evidence that they were in operation on 31 October 2023.

The potential judicial review does not present any changes; we have to wait for the cases to come before a court and for the judge to make a decision on whether Government acted properly in devising and implementing this law. It remains illegal for a rescue, advertise, rehome, sell or move a Bully XL and for any dogs taken in after 30 December 2023 to be exempted. Each organisation will need to decide what it wishes to do with respect to exemption.

Does each dog have to identify with each standard? Or is it a majority or a percentage?

The only standard that is non negotiable is the the height limit so if your dog does not meet this requirement it is not identified as a Bully XL. As with PBTs, the dog will have to meet a “substantial number” of the other nine identification marks which are more subjective. The heights for an adult male are 20 inches (51 cm) at the withers, and for adult females, 19 inches (48cm) at the withers. The full definition is here. Pictures were added on 14 November 2023.

Where can we refer staff/volunteers for emotional support?

ADCH ran two webinars for Members, one in November and one in January – these recordings are available on the past events section of our website for members and are worth re-watching. Blue Cross also run a bereavement support line and are prepared to take calls from rescue staff and volunteers.

Could the compensation scheme for the public presenting xl bullies for euthanasia could be open to fraud? Will there be guidelines issued for this?

Yes, this has been raised with Defra. It will be essentially down to the vets to police this, as they will be doing the euthanasia; but if the person self identifies their dog to the vet as a Bully XL and the vet does not consider this to be a wrong assessment, they will sign the form for the compensation to be claimed. There are different forms for compensation depending on the status of the owner (i.e. VCE01 form is for owners, VCE02 form is for rescue and rehoming organisations).

When this ban takes place what are the possible scenarios and timetable for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland?

ADCH will provide an update on Scotland shortly.

No decision has yet been taken in Northern Ireland.

Ireland has no plans to change their legislation and the American Bully XL is already a ‘ban dog’.

Artificial insemination businesses are increasing, Defra are instead focusing on Bully XLs. What considerations are possible to manage/monitor these?

The EFRA Committee will recommend canine fertility clinics (CFCs) to be licensed or better monitored – the Government is keen to better manage CFCs better but it is not clear if there will be a lot to do this before the election – this is a devolved issue.

Can we keep an American XL Bully in a rescue?

The Government have laid the third and final piece of legislation on Bully XLs. This brings in the exemption for rescues from the Bully XL ban. 
A rescue based in England and Wales can exempt a Bully XL that was in its in care before 30 December 2023 providing that the application is completed by 22 January 2024. The rules for any dog that a rescue wishes to exempt are that: 

  • It must be neutered by June or December 2024 depending on its age
  • The rescue must have 3rd party liability insurance for the dog
  • The dog must be muzzled in a public place
  • The dog must be neutered
  • The rescue must pay £92.40 for an exemption certificate
  • The rescue must have adequate staff on the premises where it is kept at all times*
  • The rescue cannot move the dog from the premises where it is registered unless in an emergency
  • The rescue cannot rehome or change the ownership of the dog

Applications will only be open on 31 December 2023 until 22 January 2024 (this date was changed following a legal challenge, the original deadline was 15 January 2024)

* ADCH interprets as meaning there must be sufficient number of staff that you would normally have (dog/staff ratio) and at all times, including the night, so you would need staff permanently on site at all times, and the more dogs you exempt, the more staff you will need.


There is a provision for the Secretary of State to change the exemption certificate and move the dog, but the ownership remains with the rescue – this only permits the rescue to move the dog between sites the rescue owns.  This does not cover foster homes and is only for rescue centres owned by the same rescue.

ADCH members will need to consider this option very carefully and decide if they wish to proceed with exempting Bully XL dogs that were in their care on 30 December 2023.  Any such dogs will have to be kept at the rescue’s shelter, cannot be rehomed, sold or ownership changed or moved. You should also be aware of the ADCH standards on keeping dogs which states that animals need to be able to exhibit normal behavioural patterns;  there are specific standards on issues such as companionship, exercise and veterinary care. 
With regards to foster homes, we are reading the S9 exemption as not for fosters, so only for moving a S1 dog between sites owned by the same rescue.

What advice can we give to owners whose dogs potentially conform to the Bully XL specification, but are known not to be of 'type', e.g. crossbreeds?

The advice we are suggesting members provide owners at the moment is to ‘err on the side of caution’ and start the registration process to apply for an exemption.

It is not clear if there will be a possibility to de-register dogs who are later discovered not to be an American Bully XL type, this will need to be clarified by Defra.

Can I use my fenced off area as a private area, and so allow an American Bully XL off its lead and muzzle there?

The rules that apply to other dogs under the DDA are not changing, but this will be dependent on your local circumstances. Please check with your DLO and your insurer on how they define your fenced off area.

What advice can you give American Bully XL owners as to whether they should get their dog exempt before 31 January 2024?

This is up to the individual, but Defra are advising a precautionary approach, and if you feel you dog matches the identification guide then you should put in for the dog to be exempted.

You might find it helpful to refer owners to the RSPCA’s FAQ on their page here.

Is the identification guide going to change?

No, but we have made it clear that the only mandatory standard is the height of the dog. Photos were added to the guidance on 14 November 2023.

How do we go about identifying puppies?

Puppies should be identified between 9-12 months.

The rules set up when they should be neutered under the exemption process (<12 months on 31 December 2023 should be neutered by 31 January 2024, >12 months should be neutered by 30 June 2024). They need to be exempted by 31 January 2024.

We recognise that puppies born to pregnant mothers and entering rescues now will be difficult to type as they grow, and therefore decide on their future. It is possible that any puppies born to owners will have to go through the court process to be exempted if not exempted by 31 January 2024. Any puppies born in the care of rescues and of type will have to be euthanised after 31 December 2023, depending on what new rules Defra give for rescues under a final piece of legislation

What if my vet refuses to, or cannot, microchip and neuter my dog?

There are no exemptions to the rules, any exempted dog needs to be neutered if over one year on 31 January 2024 by 30 June 2024 and if less than one year by December 31 2024.

My vet will refuse to PTS any healthy XLBs presented to them, I am wondering how many other vets share their views. Is there any other veterinary feedback?

The veterinary sector has said that they are concerned on their capacity to deal with the numbers of dogs with both euthanasia and neutering. Each individual vet practice or vet corporation will make a decision on whether they will euthanise.

What should owners do who clearly don't have an American XL Bully, but whose dogs they believe conform to the specifications?

The advice we are suggesting Members provide owners at the moment is to ‘err on the side of caution’ and register their dogs. The possibility to later ‘de-register’ dogs is not confirmed by Defra.

Whether there will be a behavioural requirement for exemption like with the current DDA, and how this may impact reactive dogs?

No – the assessment is purely on using the Government’s identification guide and not on behaviour.

Will there be a chance to overthrow exemptions, on dogs that potentially won't type once DLOs get their training?

Defra have yet to give advice on this, but ADCH would advise you to err on the side of caution – once a dog is typed and put under the exemption list it may not be able to be unexempted but we will share information if this changes.

Should we accept these breeds into our rescue prior to the clarification of the restrictions?

This is up to the individual rescue – some rescues have stopped accepting Bully XLs, others are still accepting. However should the law not change it will be illegal for a rescue to keep these dogs after 31 January 2024 and they will have to be euthanised unless they have been exempted under the rescue exemption process which closes on 22 January 2024.

Will the ADCH considered petitioning the government for a full review of the Dangerous Dogs Act?

Yes – ADCH members continue to do this.

Will DLOs assess potential Bully XL types in rescues as they currently do for potential Pit Bull Types?

This will be up to the individual DLO  – Defra have said the process for rescues as well as owners of Bully XLs are self assessment but ADCH would advise you to ask your DLO to give a second opinion to type any suspected dogs – some DLOs will be trained by mid-December, but some are already using the Government identification guide.

What are the steps to getting an exemption?

This is on the Government website updated on Tuesday (14 November) for dog owners; advice for rescues is available here.

What is the ADCH's position on Breed specific legislation? Is the ADCH likely to be at the forefront of campaigns to change this?

Many ADCH members are also members of the Dog Control Coalition which has been campaigning for the past few years for an overhaul and review of the DDA. ADCH doesn’t have a position on it, but many of our members campaign on it.

When will it be appropriate/possible to have dogs officially typed?

A rescue can self-assess but is advised to have a DLO officially type the dog – some DLOs will be trained by mid-December, but some are already using the Government identification guide.

If a dog fits all the physical criteria, but is slightly short at the whithers, is it likely to be "typed" by the DLO?

No – the minimum height is either a pass or fail and is mandatory – if your dog is shorter than 20” (male) 19” (female) it is not a Bully XL.

Government guidance says that pocket, classic/standard are not part of the ban. What is the height parameter for these types?

This is now on the website – the minimum height is either a pass or fail and is mandatory – if your dog is shorter than 20” (male) 19” (female) it is not a Bully XL.

Will there be any training offered to help identify a typed dog?

No – the only government training is for DLOs; ADCH is not providing any training, but you can utilise the government identification guide.

Are any rescue organisations still offering help with rehoming very young bully XL puppies that are too young to be typed?

This is up to individual rescues – ADCH does not have an accurate summary at present

What to do with puppies too young to 'type' or not knowing what a bitch (not an XL) has mated with and rehoming those puppies?

Puppies that are younger than one year on 31 January 2024 do not need to be neutered until 31 December 2024 if less than one year old or one than one year old on 31 January 2024 by 30 June.  Puppies younger than eight weeks old when applying for exemption do not have to be microchipped until 31 March 2024.

Will this ban apply to American Bulldogs?

The ban only applies to XL bully dogs as identified by the Government identification chart. Any dog that is Kennel Club registered outside the scheme. As Bully XLs, Pit Bull Terriers and American bulldogs are not Kennel Club registered breeds but types of dogs, they may share characteristics so need to be assessed against the Government chart. If they substantially confirm to the XL breed standard and confirm to the height (the only mandatory part of the identification), they could still be typed as an XL bully. Although the Government is asking all rescues and owners to self identify their dogs against their identification, we advise all rescues to speak to their DLOs for help with identification if they are uncertain.  

What is the ADCH advice for tenants whose tenancy agreement says that they may not keep a banned breed?

This will be up to each housing association. Further details continue to be sought. It is important that tenants continue to apply for exemption.  

If a rescue dog is not fully grown, how would we be able to know if they are to be typed in the future where parentage is unknown?

This is a very problematic area that the ADCH is continually raising with Government who have to date not given full details on how to identify puppies. The definition of the type and the requirement for a minimum height means that a dog cannot be finally typed until fully grown. The advice is to exempt if there is concern, as after the cut-off date they cannot be voluntarily exempted. The Government are looking at the possibility to remove any exempt dogs from the index at a later date if the typing was incorrect and the dog does not grow to meet the minimum height. 

Can you apply for exemption using a named individual at a rescue centre address?

Rescues are able to apply to keep a Bully XL in their care for life by 22 January 2024, under the rescue name using the forms here. Please see earlier questions for ADCH’s advice note on care for life.

Can a homeless person exempt their XL bully?

Unfortunately, an individual without an address cannot comply with the regulations, as the requirements are for the dog to live in escape-proof accommodation and remain muzzled and on a lead when in public which will not be possible for individuals experiencing street homelessness. They would also need an address when they apply for the exemption.  

What about somebody who has a temporary address?

This would be acceptable, put the temporary address on the registration application, and be sure to update the certification when temporary addresses change. 

Are dogs who are wrongly entered onto the index going to be able to be removed at a later date?

We currently do not know the process for this. We understand that there is the intention to be a process to allow it, however the Government have yet to reveal the details.  

Is there any chance of an extension to rehoming for rescues after 31 December 2023?

No, after midnight on 31 December 2023 you cannot rehome any dogs. If you are rehoming before then ensure that the new owners are fully aware of the implications. It will be a criminal offence if an XL bully is rehomed after this date. 

Is there any advice for members around the new underwriting process for insurance?

The only requirement for an XL bully is for third party liability cover, this is currently offered by Dogs Trust Companion Club for individuals. If a dog is to be exempted and retained by a rescue for life, then rescues will need to check with their individual insurance providers for public liability cover. 

How would you prove that a breed is recognised by the Kennel Club? Does DNA testing help?

DNA evidence is not excluded, but the kits available to determine breed are not designed to be used in court and are not likely to have any significant sway, though courts can use any evidence that they wish. If a dog can be proved to be a Kennel Club registered breed then it may help, but the Kennel Club certification system is based on trust, and the court may not be willing to accept it for that reason. 

Are the photos in the government definition document correct?

They are real photos provided by the police. ADCH is trying to get Defra to put up photos of dogs that are not Bully XLs to show the difference in type. 

Will there be any financial assistance for owners?

RSPCA and Battersea will be releasing an assistance programme for owners to apply for neutering assistance if they wish to exempt their Bully XL and this cost is a barriers. There are other schemes in existence which appear to provide funding for the exemption process 

Is there any advice on rehoming puppies from stray pregnant bitches, where the mum is a bull breed but not an XL, and the father’s size/breed is unknown?

If the dogs come in after 31 January 2024 the dog should be looked at by a DLO who may be satisfied if they are able to review the dog at a later date. However, owner led registration is not available after 31 January, so the puppies would have to go through the courts to be indexed after this date. Therefore, a preventive approach is suggested. As yet there is no decision for or against being able to foster puppies in these circumstances, so we have to assume that this will not be possible, but we will provide updates when this is known. 

My vets have had no advice on neuter deadlines and are confused, is this right?

Guidance for vets has now been published by the RCVS – XL Bully dog ban: advice published – Professionals (] There will undoubtedly be issues with neutering so many dogs and there are different deadlines depending on the dog’s age. It is best to be proactive and book appointments as soon as possible.   

What happens if you exempt by 31 January but are unable to find a vet to neuter by 30 June?

The dog becomes non-exempt and could be seized and would need to go via the courts for exemption, as owner-led exemption will not be a possibility. Evidence of a booked appointment will not be sufficient; the vet must have carried out the procedure and filled in the necessary paperwork by the deadline for the dog’s age.  

Our DLO says that they’re unable to give advice until 1 February 2024, as they will not have completed their training before this. Is this right?

The DLO training is due to take place in early December and have all DLOs trained by end January, so there could be some who are at the end of this timescale. There are others who will be trained beforehand.  

The SI contained no full impact assessment, will there be one produced?

This is unlikely. As the legislation has moved on at an outstanding speed, ADCH submitted our own impact assessment in information to Defra and to Efra; this showed that there will be, contrary to the Government position, a large discernible impact on the public and voluntary sectors. There is a judicial review planned however these are never guaranteed to work.  

Can I walk an XL bully without a muzzle after 31 December 2023?

If you have an XL bully type dog, from 31 December 2023 it must be on a lead and muzzle whether or not it is being exempted, and it must not be bred from, sold rehomed or given away. 

Is it correct we cannot rehome suspected Bully XL puppies and bring them back to the rescue to be typed at a later date?

If the dog doesn’t comply with the minimum height then it cannot be typed, so you could do this, however if you think that there is a chance that they will grow up to be of type then work with your DLO, in the same way that you would now with a suspected litter of pit bull terriers. 

Does the application need to be processed or just submitted?

Do not leave registration until the last minute. Do the registration through the portal so that you have confirmation that the application has gone in advance.  

Can a rescue based in the borders relocate an XL bully into Scotland after December?

We are seeking clarification on this, however it is possible to relocate prior to 31 December 2023. After that date rescue in England or Wales cannot move a Bully XL to another rescue where the new ban doesn’t apply. At the moment there isn’t a decision on Scotland’s approach.  

What happens with rescue back-up after the ban?

This is not currently a legal requirement in England and Wales and couldn’t be enforced. A member of the public bringing a dog back after 31 December 2023 would be committing an offence, and after 31 January 2024 the rescue would be committing an offence in taking it in. The only option would be to bring the dog in for voluntary euthanasia. It is vital that owners who adopted a bully XL before 31 December 2023 understand this. 

After 1 February, assuming that there will be an option to join the exemption index via the courts, would a behaviour assessment take place?

Yes, but this is a risky route. The dog will be seized and could be retained by the police for many months, and if you cannot argue that the dog is not a danger to public safety (including the temperament test) and the owner if a fit and proper, natural person, then the dog will be euthanised.  

Are we to interpret that the government’s language could include other breeds which may not be recognised by the Kennel Club?

It will be the magistrates and judges deciding on a case-by-case basis, looking at the information in the statutory instrument. 

Who will be enforcing this?

The Police and DLOs will continue to enforce the Dangerous Dogs Act. Local Authorities have the responsibility for dealing with stray dogs.  

Who will train the DLOs?

The DLOs are believed to be trained by experts who are existing DLOs and other dog experts. 

Can a live-in member of staff who has exempted the dog change employment? Do they have to take the dog with them?

If they take the dog with them that’s fine, they will have to notify the index of their new address. If the staff member dies or is too seriously ill to look after the dog, they may transfer the ownership to somebody else. If they otherwise wanted to change the ownership to a new person (i.e. if they left the rescue) it would need to be shown that they have had responsibility for the dog in the past or present. If transfer of ownership does not take place within 30 days, the police can then seize the dog and the case would go to court. If someone was willing to put themselves forward the court may, or may not, approve transfer of ownership. 

What do we do with dogs that the DLO cannot advise on?

Take a precautionary approach and exempt the dog.  

When the self-assessment period ends, what happens to non-exempted dogs, will they all be seized and put in police kennels?

Yes, unless the police chose to allow the dog to remain at the home which will be at their discretion. 

Is the ban likely to be extended to Northern Ireland?

As yet we do not know,  Northern Ireland has not yet made a decision. 

If an owner walks their dog who they know is not an ABXL without a muzzle after 31/12/23; could the dog be seized, could the police suggest indexing??

The police could seize the dog and prosecute, but the trial won’t be concluded before the end of the self-registration period by 31 January 2024. The owner could dispute this in court 

Could a suspected pitbull terrier measuring above the minimum height be lawfully registered as a Bully XL?

Whilst this could happen technically it shouldn’t as a PBT should not be registered as a Bully XL. 

Are there any guidelines and advice as to what happens when a dog is seized?

The seizure process has not changed since the DDA was brought in in 1991. 

Is the care provided to seized dogs up to ADCH Minimum Welfare and Operational Standards?

There are standards that police kennels have to meet and of course the police kennels have to meet the Animal Welfare Act 2006 conditions. However an owner will never know where a dog is being kept. It is not clear how well the standards are enforced.

Are owners liable for court costs?

Costs are at the discretion of the courts, they could be liable for police or crown prosecution services costs and a fine which could be unlimited, and a victim surcharge, a charge of destruction, and a ban on keeping dogs.  

If someone is evicted, can they keep their exempted dog?

Any breaches of the conditions, such as not residing at the registered address, could leave the dog liable to be seized. If person was homeless the dog would not be kept in a secure property as is required, the dog is unexempted, and would need to go through court to seek re-exemption.  

What happens if dogs are seized but there are no kennels?

ADCH has made this clear to Defra that there is no kennel space in rescue, local authorities have little space, private boarding has little space and the police have little space. Boarding kennels are often unable to take in banned dogs as it would invalidate their own insurance cover, and presents an additional problem for local authorities.  

What happens if an owner has self-identified a dog as not of type, but they are reported to the DLO by another member of the public?

The police/DLO may come and examine the dog, however if they are not found to be of type there is no way of stopping further reports and complaints.

When will we get the next piece of guidance?

There is no further guidance expected.

Is it compulsory for dogs to be muzzled in the car?

Previously the inside of a vehicle has been determined to be a public place if the car is in a public place. Therefore, the dog must be on a lead which is held by someone over 16 years old, and muzzled, when travelling in the car. There is no precedent set in travelling in crates, so we cannot give a categorical answer on travelling crates.  

If rescues are allowed to exempt, will they be removed as ADCH members?

There will be concerns about keeping dogs in care on a permanent basis and ADCH has standards on the long-term care of animals. Rescues should think carefully about whether they can look after a bully XL for up to 15 or 16 years in care. See our advice note  here 

How will insurance be affected for dog-sitters and doggy day care?

Every indication is that public liability insurance providers will not cover any dog on the banned breeds list. Each insurance company and commercial enterprise will need to take into consideration their own operations. Rescues running any commercial enterprise such as boarding should speak to their insurer as soon as possible.  

Will it be possible to withdraw your dog from the exemption list in the future?

Yes.  After the transition period there will be a Government led process for owners to apply to have their Certificate of Exemption withdrawn if the owner considers that the dog is not within scope of the official definition of an XL Bully.  Details will announced by DEFRA details  in due course.

When will the SI be laid on rescues?

This piece of legislation was laid on 19 December.

What advice can I give owners if their dogs are siezed?

An advice leaflet is available here.