Some of our most commonly asked questions

This post contains some of the most frequent general questions we are being asked currently and our responses to them which whilst not constituting legal advice, will hopefully help owners of dogs which may be caught up in the addition of the XL Bully to the list of dogs prohibited under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. If you have a general question that is not included below then please feel free to message us or post in the replies to this post and we will add it to the post with a response. We cannot give the answers to some questions that are individual and dependent on the circumstances, so in those situations please contact us directly in order that we can have access to all of the information we might need regarding your situation in order to provide the best advice possible.
Please can we ask that only questions are posted on this post in order that we can deal with them efficiently, as you can probably imagine we are also running the helplines and are very busy so it would make it much easier for us if all questions are on one post and the post contains only questions. Thank you in advance.

1. How do I know if my dog is type?
The Government are advising owners that if their dog meets the minimum height of over 20 inches for a male and 19 inches for a female that they should apply for exemption if the dog also has a substantial number of the characteristics in the breed standard guidance they have produced. Those dogs that are recognised breeds in the UK, those that do not meet the minimum height requirements, and those which do but do not substantially conform to the breed standard do not need to exempt.

2. Is the ban throughout the UK or just in England?
Currently the ban covers only England and Wales though Scotland and Norther Ireland may yet choose to follow suit.

3. Can my dog be seized before 31st December?
No the Statutory Instrument to add the XL Bully to the list of prohibited breeds whilst made and laid in Parliament only comes into force and rolls out it’s first restrictions on the 31st Dec 2023

4. Should I wait until after the Parliamentary debate before applying for exemption?
The parliamentary debate is a petitions debate only and there will be no vote. A petitions debate also cannot change the law.

5. How much is exemption?
The Index administration fee is £92.40 and you will need to secure third party insurance by becoming a companion club member of dogs trust which costs £25.00 a year or if you are over 60 half that and covers all of the dogs regardless of breed that the member owns.

6. If a dog is exempt, is it allowed to board in kennels when the owner goes on holiday?
Yes, but you will have to check that any kennels you choose will accept exempted dogs and have appropriate insurance cover that allows this, and make them aware of the restrictions as they will need to be followed during your dog’s stay. Please remember that your dog may only stay away from the license holder’s address for a maximum period of thirty days in any one year.

7. How long do I have to get my dog exempted?
Until the 31st January 2024, but postal or email applications must reach the Index of Exempted Dogs by the 15th January 2024 and that from the 31st December 2023 your dog must be kept leashed and muzzled in a public place (including in your car when that is in a public place,) you must not breed or breed from a type dog, you must not sell, exchange, or give as a gift, or advertise for sale, exchange, or gift, and you must not abandon it or allow it to stray. You must also neuter your dog but the deadline for this is 30th of June 2024 for dogs of 12 months or over on 31st January 2024 and 31st December 2024 for Dogs under 12 months on 31st January 2024. You MUST provide proof of neutering to the index when it has been done as failure to do so will result in your dog becoming unexempted.

8. How long does it take for my Exemption Certificate to come back?
Currently, online applications are only taking 2 to 3 days but this is likely to increase as more people apply and the deadline approaches, postal and email applications we do not have any information on at the minute (if anyone using either method could share this information that would be appreciated). Remember that the deadline for postal or email applications is that they reach the index by the 15th January 2024 and that in the run-up to Christmas and beyond there is the potential for it to be delayed/lost in the Christmas post and also that The Index is likely to be closed for a period over the festive season.

9. On the application form it states that I will either be sent a Certificate of Exemption or a rejection letter or email. Why would I be rejected?
If the form is incomplete or other mistakes are made it may be rejected and you may have to reapply.

10. Will there be a temperament test?
No not during the transition period this will only come into play if your dog is not exempted, or becomes unexempt due to a breach of conditions, is then seized, and you are taken to court, at this point you will have to satisfy the court that your dog would pose no danger to public safety if they were to allow exemption. This can often be achieved by providing letters from people who know your dog and know you to be a responsible owner who can attest to it’ temperament and your ability to control it, or by behaviour experts who can provide a behavioural report.

11. Will there be a ‘fit and proper person’ consideration?
No this will not be considered during the transition period and would, again only become relevant if your dog is not exempted after this period or you breached the conditions causing the dog to become unexempt, again it would be up to you to satisfy the court that you are a fit and proper person to own such a dog. The court can view any relevant circumstances in considering this as well as any criminal record you might have especially those involving drugs or violence, or a failure to comply with any previous orders of a court.

12. When do I need to start muzzling my dog?
You should train your dog to accept the muzzle from now but the exemption rule of muzzling and leashing in public only comes into force on 31st December 2023.

13. Do I need to muzzle it before my exemption comes through?
Not if it is before 31st December 2023 but it would be advisable to start training your dog to the muzzle now and familiarise the dog with wearing it not only in the garden but also out on walks prior to this becoming compulsory.

14. What kind of muzzle do I need?
The muzzle must be of a construction that ensures the dog is unable to bite, we recommend Baskerville Ultra muzzles as they encase the dog’s mouth rather than enclose it and still allow it to pant, drink, and if necessary to be sick without causing the dog to choke. Once the exemption rules come into force there is NO reason that allows you to remove the dogs muzzle when out in public. The plastic basket muzzles can also be moulded for a better fit by placing in hot water for a time and being stretched whilst warm.

15. Can I walk my dog on a flexible lead?
No your dog must be walked on a fixed lead and whilst lead length is not specified it obviously must be appropriate to the surroundings you are in and enable you to retain control of your dog and prevent it being able to cause injury to someone (note section three of the Dangerous Dogs Act ‘dogs dangerously out of control’ refers to injury not bite) There is case law which states that an on lead dog is only under proper control if it can be prevented from causing injury so simply being on a lead of any length is not a defence on its own.

16. What is classed as a public place?
Any place to which the public have access, this also includes the inside of a car if the car itself is in a public place.

17. Can my dog be muzzle and lead free in my garden?
Yes in a rear garden however front gardens which tend to have lower permitted fence heights we would urge caution as there not only is a chance the dog could escape (and therefore not be being kept securely) but there is also an implied right of access to people such as postal workers and delivery drivers, there is also a possibility that someone passing by could attempt to interact with your dog over, or through the boundary resulting in reaction from a normally placid dog.

18. How high does my fence/wall have to be?
There is no set fence height in the legislation, but you must be able to keep your dog secure so as to prevent escape. You do not even have to have a fenced off area provided you walk your dog on leash and muzzle when out. Many people without gardens or with shared gardens simply take their dog for a walk and in some ways it can actually help as you are not tempted to leave your dog unattended. However if your dog were to not be exempted or become unexempted because of a breach then a court would consider if it believed your boundary to be secure as to prevent escape and each court would have its own view on the criteria for this.

19. Can an exempt dog be exercised in a private field?
Only if that field was secure preventing escape, and also prevented access by the public (whether deliberate or accidental) Immediate family members such as those in the same household are not classed as the public but friends and wider family most likely would be.

20. Can an exempt dog be exercised in a private field with other dogs?
If the advice in the previous question is taken or the other dogs belong to you then yes

21. Can I get health insurance for my exempted dog?
Currently, we are not aware of any health insurers which are taking new clients (please message us if you know differently) however there are a number who will continue to insure dogs they currently cover at least for this policy year, so we would urge owners to contact their insurer for clarification. Our main priority at the minute is to ensure as many dogs as possible are kept safe from potential seizure by advising and assisting owners, however as soon as we are able, we intend to contact insurers to put to them the positives of providing healthcare for exempted dogs and urging them to consider doing so as we have done periodically over the years.

22. What will happen to my health insurance once my dog becomes ‘banned’?
As above owners should clarify with their insurers their policy on this.

23. Does my dog have to be muzzled and on a lead if I have visitors?
Section 1 of the legislation only stipulates that a dog should be muzzled and on a lead in a public place, however you should be mindful that Section 3 of the act which applies to all breeds of dog concerns any dog dangerously out of control in a public or private place that causes injury or reasonable apprehension that it will injure a person or assistance dog, this is a strict liability offence and there is only a limited defence to it, so whilst you are not breaching the restrictions under section 1, you could (along with all dog owners) fall foul of section 3 if an incident occurred.

24. Will my dog have to be muzzled and on a lead if it is in a crate in my car?
This has not been tested in court and there is no case law to clarify however we will, along with others be asking for clarification of this in the form of guidance from government as technically the description of enclosing the dog’s mouth such as to prevent it from biting is satisfied by the cage/crate as is the control of the dog.

25. What do I do about neutering if my dog has a health condition that would prevent neutering?
Neutering is a requirement of exemption.

26. How will the ban affect people in rented property, either private or Housing Association/Council?
At the moment we simply do not know, and the terms of your tenancy which you agreed to will to a degree dictate this. However, it is unfair to target people who have basically woken up one morning to find they became in breach of their tenancy overnight through no fault of their own and we would hope that both landlords, and if involved, the courts would consider this.

27. How will the ban affect homeless people?
In our experience it would affect them greatly as they have no address at which they live to exempt the dog to, and if on the streets they would be obliged to muzzle and leash their dog 24/7 which would leave them falling foul of welfare laws.

28. Will American Bulldogs or American Staffords be affected?
As unrecognised breeds in this country yes, they could be, if they exceed the minimum height in the government guidelines and match a substantial number of the other characteristics listed, in fact the American Stafford has been at risk since the 1990’s of being of Pit Bull Terrier type with government circulars being published stating this in guidance at the time. The breed type we suspect will be the most likely to be caught up in the XL Bully ban aside from standard and classic Bullys who exceed the height requirement in the governments breed standard is the American Bulldog particularly the longer snouted types, as most if not all will meet the minimum height to trigger further examination and whilst not meeting all of the points in the standard, they may well match a substantial number of characteristics. The main issue with the government standard in our opinion is that it does not place more importance on some features over others in accurately determining type and also fails to account for faults which could in fact be a determining feature showing the dog is in fact a different type.

29. If my dog is later found not to be a banned breed, how do I get the exemption overturned?
There is provision for this under article 11 (2) and (3) of the exemption scheme for this and whilst the Index have not released the process as of yet we expect that if enforcement agencies confirm that they have no evidence to presume your dog is type then it will be removed from the register however in the first instance you should contact the Index of Exempted Dogs so they can guide you through the process whilst in the meantime continuing to comply with the rules of exemption until the process is complete.

30. Can you be forced to euthanise your dog?
No provided that you do not sign over your dog to authorities, then only a court can order destruction which could only occur if you either a) Didn’t exempt your dog during the transition period, or you breached the conditions of an exempted dog.

31. Will DNA testing be taken into account?
No DNA is of no use for a number of reasons, not least because the XL Bully being a relatively new breed which is a result of recent crossbreeding it is likely that most if not all XL Bully will come back as crossbreeds and the legislation concerns your dog’s physical appearance rather than its parentage so therefore you owning a cross breed would not mean that it did not have a substantial number of characteristics of the XL Bully. In addition to this the DNA companies do state in their terms and conditions that they are not to be used as breed identifiers for breed specific legislation purposes.

32. I live in Scotland but visit relatives in England. Will I need to get my dog exempted?
We are seeking clarification on this as currently a dog in Scotland does not need to be registered and may well be refused exemption on the basis that it is not within the scope of the law, however it will it appears, be illegal to be in possession, control or charge of that same dog if it were to be brought into England or Wales. The same applies to those in Northern Ireland. We will post any further information regarding this as and when it becomes available

33. Can my dog be kennelled?
Yes, so long as it is kept secure so as to prevent escape.

34. Can my friends or family look after my dog?
The dog is only allowed to live away from the exemption holder for a period of no more than thirty days in any-one year but providing the conditions are met then there is no reason why not.

35. Does the law apply for emotional support dogs?

36. My dog has a health condition, does it still need to be exempted?
If the dog meets the minimum height requirements and additionally has a substantial number of the characteristics of an XL Bully type then yes it does.

37. My puppy isn’t fully grown yet. Should I get it exempted?
The standard is based on the characteristics of an adult dog but if you believe your dog to be an XL Bully, an XL Bully crossbreed, or a crossbreed of any other large Bull Breed likely to meet the minimum height requirement then you should consider exempting now with a view to your dog later being examined and removed from the exempted register if not in the scope of the legislation once it is old enough to be examined against the standard.

38. Will there be any financial help available at all from any organisations?
There are a number of organisations already offering reduced-cost neutering, local vets also sometimes offer limited periods where neutering is offered at a reduced cost. If you are on benefits you may also qualify for assisted cost neutering with some national or local organisations and charities. We are hoping that more help will be forthcoming as the neutering deadlines approach and will post any schemes on our website and social media as soon as we become aware of them.

Don’t forget, if you have any questions, please head over to our Facebook page and add them to this thread.