XL bully ban: online dog marketplaces 'phasing out' ads as government confirms date for breed ban

By New Year's Eve it will be illegal to sell, abandon, breed, or give away American XL bullies - and sales platforms are taking action
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A popular dog sale and rehoming site is starting to purge itself of advertisements for XL bullies, as dates and what exactly the upcoming breed ban will mean are revealed.

On Tuesday (31 October) the government confirmed American XL bullies - a relatively new dog breed descended, in part, from pit bulls - would officially be added as a banned breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act on 31 December. This will make it illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, rehome, abandon or adopt out XL bully dogs in England and Wales.

From that date, New Year's Eve, all XL bullies out on walks will need to wear a muzzle and remain leashed. Then from 1 February 2024, it will be illegal to own one of the dogs at all - unless the owner has specifically applied for an exemption. All bullies will also need to be microchipped and neutered by December next year at the very latest.

A spokesperson from the UK’s leading online dog marketplace - puppies.co.uk - said the site was already taking action to prepare for the ban. “Following the recent announcement, we are beginning to phase out XL bully-related listings and content, and plan to ensure the new rules can be enforced by collaboratively working to the guidelines," they said.

XL Bully dog supporters hold placards during a protest against the UK Government's planned ban (Photo: HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)XL Bully dog supporters hold placards during a protest against the UK Government's planned ban (Photo: HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)
XL Bully dog supporters hold placards during a protest against the UK Government's planned ban (Photo: HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

However, the site's spokesperson argued that more needed to be done to solve the UK's dog attack crisis. "People who were buying the XL bully will likely just move to the next dangerous dog breed and the cycle will restart again until that one gets banned. We are calling for the government to consider further laws enforcing responsible ownership and responsible breeding of all dog breeds to be a priority to solve the problem of dangerous dogs once and for all.”

Recent data analysis from Puppies showed that as of earlier this month, there were still a large number of people seeking bully puppies for sale. Across the UK, around 9,600 monthly searches were made for the XL bullies for sale, they said, with Coventry and Manchester taking the top spots for highest rate of searches per number of residents.

The site's sentiment has been echoed by others, including those in the rescue centre like the RSPCA. The animal charity's dog expert Dr Samantha Gaines recently told a government committee that their shelters had about 110 dogs which would need to be put down under the new legislation, and argued there was currently no clear evidence any one dog breed was more likely to bite than another.

She joined other experts in calling for a centralised database where all dog bites are reported and recorded, saying there was currently a lack of official data. Other concerns raised by the panel included how the dogs would be accurately identified - with even DNA evidence not always able to pick bullies from similar breeds.

With news of the ban, the government has also published its official definition of what an XL bully is, which describes them as a "large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size. [A] powerfully built individual."

They had "blocky or slightly squared" muzzles and "prominent cheek muscles", were "heavily-muscled", the description says. The government recommends all dog owners with dogs who may fit or grow up to fit the description start preparing for the upcoming ban now.

BullyWatch - an anti-bully site which aims to keep track of dog attacks in the UK by breed based off media, social media, and police reports - reports that there have been 11 confirmed and 3 suspected human deaths linked to the breed since 2021.

It also reports large bully breeds are behind 351 attacks in 2023 alone, 43% of all attacks this year. The site claimed there had been a huge 435% increase in dog attacks in the UK overall since 2013.

The government first took aim at American XL bullies in late September. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the breed would be banned by the end of the year, on the back of two serious attacks involving the breed - one where a young Birmingham girl and two men who tried to help her were bitten, and the death of Staffordshire man Ian Price, who died of his injuries after trying to defend his elderly mother from two loose XL bullies.

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