XL Bully ban in Scotland: What does the announcement mean for me?

by PDSA | 9 February

On Thursday 18 January 2024, the Scottish Government confirmed that it would replicate the XL Bully ban, which has already been implemented in England and Wales.

The XL Bully ban in England and Wales was introduced after a in 2023. Following these attacks, and an increase in incidents and fatalities involving the breed, the

From 31 December 2023, it became illegal to sell, abandon or breed XL Bully dogs in England and Wales. As of 1 February 2024, owners in England and Wales are required to have a Certificate of Exemption, muzzle their dogs in public and keep them on a lead.

Due to increasing political and media pressure for Scotland to act, the Scottish Government announced they would replicate the legislation introduced in England and Wales.

Just like the ban in England and Wales, the changes will come into force in two stages to help XL Bully owners adapt. The announcement on 18 January stated that the first stage will take effect on 23 February 2024, and the second on 31 July.

Naturally, there have been many questions from owners in Scotland. Here are our most-asked questions following the XL Bully ban announcement in Scotland.


What is an XL Bully?

The definition of an XL Bully dog in Scotland is similar to the one proposed in England and Wales. Some of the characteristics mentioned include but are not limited to:

  • A large dog with a muscular body and blocky head.
  • Height of males from 20in (51cm) and height of females from 19in (48cm).
  • Heavily muscled body with a broad, deep chest with well-sprung ribs.

For the full list of characteristics, read the Scottish Government's official guidance here.

If you are unsure if your dog is an XL Bully, use the guide to check. The Scottish Government recommends that you take a cautious approach and comply with the new legislation if you are not sure about your dog.


What will the XL Bully ban mean for owners?

On 18 January 2024, the Scottish Government announced the XL Bully ban, which replicates the laws set in England and Wales. This ban has two stages to help owners comply with the law.

Announcement 18 January 2024

We recommend that you start to muzzle and lead train your XL Bully dog as soon as possible so that they will be more comfortable with it by the time it comes into law on 23 February 2024. Breeding of XL Bully dogs should now stop, and you should look into arranging for your dog to be neutered and microchipped if not already done.

Stage 1: 23 February 2024

From 23 February 2024, it will be illegal in Scotland to:

  • Sell an XL Bully dog
  • Abandon an XL Bully dog
  • Give away an XL Bully dog
  • Breed an XL Bully dog
  • Have an XL Bully dog in public without being on a lead and wearing a muzzle
  • Own an XL Bully dog that has not been microchipped

Stage 2: 31 July 2024

It will be illegal to own an XL Bully dog in Scotland from 31 July – unless you have a Certificate of Exemption and you follow the rules, which include:

  • Microchipping your dog
  • Muzzling your dog and keeping them on a lead in public
  • Neutering your dog
  • Taking out third-party insurance against your dog injuring other people – this can be provided through Dogs Trust Membership
  • Be over 16 years old

If you have an XL Bully and live in Scotland, you must have your dog neutered and return a confirmation of neutering form to the Scottish Government. The deadlines set out from the Government are:

  • Dogs aged 18 months or older on 31 July 2024 will need to be neutered by 31 January 2025.
  • For dogs younger than 18 months on 31 July 2024, evidence of neutering must be provided to the Scottish Government by 31 January 2025 or within one month of your dog reaching the age of 18 months.

If you have an XL Bully, you must apply for a Certificate of Exemption by the 31 July 2024 – or you will be breaking the law and could be convicted of a crime.

If your dog has been neutered already, fill in the form mentioned straight away and return it to the Scottish Government.


How can I apply for a Certificate of Exemption?

To get a Certificate of Exemption for your XL Bully, you’ll need to:

  • Get your dog microchipped by the time it’s 8 weeks old.
  • Have your dog neutered by the time it’s 18 months old.
  • Have third party liability insurance for your XL Bully.
  • Pay the application fee of £92.40.

If your dog is too young or unfit to have a microchip, read the Scottish Government’s guidelines here.

For a Certificate of Exemption, you can apply online or by post from 1 April 2024. You have until 31 July 2024 to apply online or until 15 July 2024 to apply by post. As previously mentioned, there is an application fee of £92.40 per dog.


What should I do if I am unable to adhere to the restrictions?

To help make it easier for owners to comply with the law, the Scottish Government has broken up the ban into different stages.

Sadly, if you cannot adhere to the requirements by the deadlines, you could be convicted of a crime. This can lead to a fine of up to £5,000, a prison sentence of up to six months, and your dog could be seized.

If you have made the difficult decision to euthanise your XL Bully, you can claim compensation. You must have arranged this with a vet by 31 July 2024.

The appointment can happen after this date, but the Scottish Government must receive your claim by 30 September 2024 with confirmation of euthanasia from a vet.

You can claim up to £200:

  • £100 to help cover the cost of euthanasia
  • £100 for the loss of the dog

If you use a free charity service to euthanise your XL Bully, you can only claim £100.

To claim £200 in compensation if you’re paying for the euthanasia, download this form. To claim £100 in compensation if you’re using a free charity service, download this form.

Make sure that you fill in the correct form with your vet and send it to the Scottish Government by the deadline. For more information on claiming compensation for euthanasia, click here.


How can I train my dog to wear a muzzle?

XL Bully owners must muzzle their dogs in public by 23 February 2024. It may be tempting to place a muzzle on your pet without properly training them – but this could scare them and make it an uncomfortable experience. For successful muzzle training, you must use positive reinforcement to help your dog associate it with a positive experience.

For help on muzzle training your dog, follow our guide:

Step 1: Introduce the muzzle

First, you’ll need to introduce the muzzle to your pet by placing it on the floor with treats around it. Try to give them their meals next to the muzzle for a few days to build up positive association with the muzzle.

Step 2:  Nose in the muzzle

When your pet is comfortable with the sight of the muzzle, encourage them to put their nose into it. You can do this by giving them treats through the gaps. Then, start to move the treats further into the muzzle until your dog is happy to take one from the end.

Step 3: Hold the straps

Once your dog is comfortable with their face in the muzzle, start holding the straps behind your dog’s ears. Make sure you give them a treat and do not fasten the muzzle until your dog is happy. Remain patient with your pet and keep trying until they are comfortable.

Step 4: Leave the muzzle on

Only when your dog is happy with wearing the muzzle, start fastening it and give them a treat. Take off the muzzle when they’ve finished their treat. Make sure to repeat this and increase the time your dog wears the muzzle. It’s important to make sure you remove it if they are stressed at any point.

Step 5: Keep practicing

The main goal is to make this a positive experience for your dog with regular treats and rewards. Keep practicing with them and never rush them. For more information on muzzle training, read our expert guide here.


What happens to unowned XL Bully dogs?

From 23 February 2024, it will be illegal to abandon an XL Bully dog or allow them to stray in Scotland, as in England and Wales. If you find a stray or abandoned dog of any breed, you should contact your local council, as they are responsible under the law for providing a stray dog service.


Should I report XL Bully dogs?

XL Bully breeds are banned in Scotland after 23 February 2024 under The Dangerous Dogs (Designated Types) Order. Therefore, if you see an XL Bully in public without a muzzle or lead, then you can report the owners. If you are concerned that a dog is dangerous, regardless of the breed, then you should report the dog to the police or local authority.

For concerns about cruelty or neglect of any pet, you should report it to the SSPCA in Scotland, RSPCA in England and Wales, and USPCA in Northern Ireland.


How do I stay safe around dogs?

The vast majority of dogs in Scotland are not dangerous but it’s always best to be cautious, calm and quiet when interacting with dogs. Any dog, regardless of the breed, can become aggressive if they are afraid or stressed.

Dogs rarely bite without warning. There are clear signs of aggression that dogs are likely to display, including:

  • Growling
  • Snarling
  • Snapping
  • Baring teeth
  • Lunging

 Never approach an unknown dog without checking with their owner first and always ask the owner before stroking. If you see a dog alone outside, call the council or report the dog online rather than approaching them.

Make sure that you stay calm around them, never run or shout around an unfamiliar dog. For more advice on dealing with a dog attack, read more here.


PDSA’s statement on the XL Bully ban

PDSA’s position on the Dangerous Dogs Act/Order remains unchanged – breed specific legislation is ineffective because it has not resulted in a reduction of dog bites or human deaths.

Whilst we agree urgent action is needed to protect the public from dangerous dogs, we're disappointed the Governments in England, Wales and Scotland are all pushing ahead with breed specific legislation. We'd like to see the Governments focus on much needed extensive reform of the Dangerous Dogs Act, as we do not believe that adding ‘XL Bully’ dogs to the list of banned breeds will be an effective way of protecting the public.

To find out more about PDSA’s stance on banning dog breeds, read our official statement on the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991).

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