Fears more than 10,000 XL Bullies still unregistered as ban on dangerous breed kicks in

1 February 2024, 00:44

XL Bullies are banned
XL Bullies are banned. Picture: Alamy
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

It's feared at least 10,000 XL Bully dogs haven't been registered as the ban on the dangerous breed comes in to force in England and Wales.

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The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said 40,000 applications had been made for a government Certificate of Exemption before the deadline of midday on 31st January.

But it’s estimated there are at least 50,000 XL Bullies in the country, which experts say is a “floor level”, meaning the true number is anticipated to be higher.

Officers stressed “proportionate action” will be taken against those who don’t adhere to the ban and dogs posing a danger to the public “will absolutely be seized”.

The NPCC said the public has a "responsibility" to help them police the ban by reporting anybody they believe to be breaking the law.

From today, it is a criminal offence to own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales without a Certificate of Exemption.

Read more: Muzzled XL Bully thrown to her death from bridge in 'sickening' act, RSPCA say

A ban on XL Bullies has kicked in
A ban on XL Bullies has kicked in. Picture: Alamy

The dogs must be neutered, kept on a lead and muzzled when out in public, microchipped and kept in a secure place so it cannot escape.

Owners or anybody handling the dog in public must be over 16 years old and take out third party public liability insurance to cover injuries the dog may cause to other people.

Officers said they were "reliant on the public" to help them catch dog owners trying to evade the ban.

Read more: 'My wrist was broken by an XL Bully that also killed my dog - but I don't support the ban in Scotland'

Chief Inspector Patrick O’Hara of the National Police Chiefs Council said there is an “obligation on everyone in society” to report to police if they believe an XL Bully dog is being kept illegally.

Mr O’Hara said: “We would actively encourage people with concerns to report it. If you see these types of dogs not adhering to the law, report it to us on 101. If it’s a serious incident or there is an active attack taking place then of course call 999.

XL Bully owners remain furious at the ban
XL Bully owners remain furious at the ban. Picture: Alamy

“We would never criticise someone getting it wrong. We will take proportionate action where it’s needed.”

The NPCC said the popularity of the breed correlated with an almost seven-fold increase in the number of fatal dog attacks since 2021.

Before 2021, police were recording an average of three deaths following dog attacks per year. Between 2021-2023, that rose to 23.

The ban will be policed by a network of 137 specialist dog legislation officers embedded in forces across the country, who've undergone new training to identify an XL bully dog. Another 60 such officers will be fully trained by September.

Neighbourhood officers embedded in their communities are also being encouraged to look out for the dangerous breed.

NPCC lead for Dangerous Dogs, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hobrough, said: "Members of the public have got a responsibility to make sure our communities are free from threats and are safe environments for children to grow up in and for the elderly to walk around."

Mr Hobrough told LBC: "I'd urge members of the public, if they are in any doubt at all about seeing one of these types of dogs In their neighbourhoods, please come forward and report it.

"We are very reliant on the public making sure that they report these types of dogs."

ACC Hobrough said he "empathised" with XL Bully owners who have been opposed to the ban, but urged them to "look at the bigger picture", saying "these dogs in the wrong hands have had severe and fatal consequences to members of the public.

"It's also cruel the way that some of these dogs have been kept and bred, with ear cropping, artificial insemination and keeping them in confined spaces - it actually breeds cruelty."

"For those people who have these dogs and haven't registered them, I warn them - they will get a knock at the door.

"Society and communities will not accept the fact that these types of dogs could be a danger to their loved ones. We've seen the fatal consequences of aggressive dogs of this nature in the wrong hands.

"They're very powerful and very dangerous, and the effects of a fatal attack on a member of the public are devastating, tragic, and communities don't recover from them for a long time."

The ban is now in force for England and Wales.

Yesterday, the Scottish government announced safeguards on owning an XL Bully dog will come in from February 23rd.

The measures, replicated from the UK Government, will require the dogs to be muzzled and kept on a lead in public.

It will also make it an offence to sell, abandon, give away or breed XL bully dogs in Scotland.

Phase two, which will make it an offence to own an XL bully without an exemption, will be enforced from July 31.