XL Bully defined by Government – green light given to put ‘dangerous’ dogs down

The Government has officially outlined what constitutes an XL Bully ahead of the ban.

Rishi Sunak announced the breed would be banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act back in September following a spate of attacks on humans. The PM described the breed as "a danger to our communities, particularly our children", adding: "It is clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs, it’s a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on."

However, the breed had no official definition (American Bullies were created in the 1990s by breeding two other dogs, with the XL version only reaching the UK in 2015). That has now changed.

READ MORE: 'XL Bully hell' attack forces woman to jump from three-storey window to safety

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The Government's definition describes the XL Bully as a "large dog with a muscular body and blocky head". Adult male height is defined as from 20in (51 cm) at the withers, and 19in (48cm) for adult females.

The distance between the tip of the nose to the stop (the indentation between muzzle and the head) is about one third of the distance from the stop to the back of the head.

The face is described as having "prominent cheek muscles" and a "well-defined" jaw, often with "prominent wrinkles". The neck is described as "heavy, muscular, slightly arched, tapering from the shoulders".

An XL Bully's upper arm length will be "about equal to the length of the shoulder blades and joined at a 35 to 45 angle to the ground". The Government adds that the distance from the withers to elbows will be "about the same as the distance from the elbow to the bottom of the feet".

The tail is described as "medium length and low set", tapering "to a point to end at about the level of the hocks", and the coat is said to be "glossy" and "smooth". The full list of characteristics can be seen here.

The Government says other established breeds that may meet some of these characteristics are "not within scope of the ban", and that a suspected XL Bully "does not need to fit the physical description perfectly" to be considered an XL Bully.

Dog owners have reacted angrily to the new definition on Facebook. One comment reads: "Still so unsure as I’m sure so many other crossbreed bull owners are as mine doesn’t look anything like these photos or isn’t 20 inch but at the end it still says they don’t need to look like the photos."

Another said: "Clear as mud still, but now with photos that your dog doesn't actually have to look like to be included." A third said: "And meanwhile dogs are punished but bad breeders/owners carry on as normal."

People who wish to keep their XL Bullies must now apply to an exemption scheme, or they can choose to have their dog euthanised and apply for compensation. It will be illegal to own an XL Bully from February 1, 2024, unless the animal is on the Index of Exempted Dogs. Exempt animals must be microchipped, neutered, muzzled and kept on a lead in public.

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