Breeding, selling or abandoning the dogs has become illegal as of Sunday
XL bully dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public under new restrictions, amid fears among animal welfare groups that a looming ban on the breed will overwhelm vets and rescue centres.
Breeding, selling or abandoning the dogs has also become illegal as of Sunday, with owners being urged to apply for a certificate of exemption for current pets before the January 31 deadline.
From February 1, it will be criminal offence to own an XL bully dog in England and Wales without a certificate.
Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said the Government had met its pledge to take “quick and decisive action” following a series of attacks, with one man dying after being savaged by one of the dogs earlier this year.
But the RSPCA said banning the breed was “not the answer” and warned of a “huge risk” that rescue centres and vets will be unable to cope.
Dr Samantha Gaines, dog welfare expert at the charity, said: “The ban on XL bullies not only remains devastating for so many dogs, but is also taking a heavy toll on owners, on rescue centre staff who have grown close to dogs in their care, and to veterinary teams who face the prospect of being asked to put to sleep healthy dogs whose behaviour poses no risk.
“There is a huge risk that rescue centres and the veterinary profession will not be able to cope with the demands put on them by this law.
“We urgently need more information and support from the UK Government so that we can help support owners and dogs affected by this ban but we will also need help and support to get through this too.”
Meanwhile, the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) warned of increased abandonment rates and said the new rules may lead to a “postcode lottery” for vets being able to help owners meet the terms.
To qualify for an exemption certificate, owners must prove their XL bully has been neutered by June 30.
If the pup is less than a year old by January 31, they must neutered by the end of 2024, and evidence must be provided.
As well as neutering their animals, XL bully owners seeking an exemption must also pay an application fee, hold active public liability insurance for their pets and ensure the dogs are microchipped.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said a “staggered approach” had been taken to the restrictions in order to safely manage the existing population of XL bully dogs while ultimately banning the breed.
The dogs were added to the Dangerous Dogs Act on October 31, giving owners two months to prepare for the first stage of restrictions.
People with dangerously out of control dogs can be jailed for 14 years and banned from owning animals, and their pets can be put down.
Mr Barclay said: “The Prime Minister pledged to take quick and decisive action to protect the public from devastating dog attacks with measures in place by the end of 2023. We have met that pledge – it is now a legal requirement for XL bully dogs to be muzzled and on a lead in public. It is also now illegal to breed, sell, advertise, gift, exchange, abandon or let XL bully dogs stray.
“All XL bully owners are expected to comply with the law and we will continue to work closely with the police, canine and veterinary experts, and animal welfare groups, with further restrictions on XL bully dogs coming into force on February 1.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub