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In the UK, what breeds of dogs are prohibited?

In 1991, the UK government brought in the Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) to crackdown on the number of dog attacks. So what are the illegal dogs in the UK and why are they illegal?

The government has added XL Bully-type dogs to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act. From 31st December 2023 breeding, selling, advertising, rehoming, abandoning and allowing an XL Bully dog to stray will be illegal. From 31st December, all XL Bully dogs must be muzzled and on a lead in public.

The decision comes following a concerning rise in attacks and fatalities caused by XL Bully dogs.

From 1st February 2024, it will also become illegal to own an XL Bully dog unless it is on the Index of Exempted Dogs. Breeders have also been told to stop mating these types of dogs from now in preparation of it being a criminal offence to sell or rehome these dogs.

    In a press statement, Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey, said: "We are taking quick and decisive action to protect the public from tragic dog attacks and today I have added the XL Bully type to the list of dogs prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

    "It will soon become a criminal offence to breed, sell, advertise, rehome or abandon an XL Bully type dog, and they must also be kept on a lead and muzzled in public. In due course it will also be illegal to own one of these dogs without an exemption. We will continue to work closely with the police, canine and veterinary experts, and animal welfare groups, as we take forward these important measures."

    For more information, visit gov.uk/guidance.

    american bully dog

    alberto clemares expósito//Getty Images

    What dog breeds are banned in the UK?

    There are currently five illegal dog breeds in the UK: the Pit Bull terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro. It is illegal to own, breed or sell dogs on this list. Many of these breeds were originally bred with fighting in mind, with the government ruling them as dangerous. American XL bully dogs will also be banned after recent attacks.

    If you own a banned dog in the UK, the police can take it off you. This includes if your dog is well-behaved and has received no complaints.

    Animal charities, including the RSPCA and the British Veterinarian Association previously warned breed-specific bans are ineffective. While the Act protects the public from dogs who are dangerous, the charities want to change one part of the law which labels certain types of dogs as dangerous purely based on their looks.

    fila brasileiro dog

    Fila Brasileiro

    Olga Khazai//Getty Images

    A spokesperson from The Kennel Club told Country Living: "We are very concerned about the rising number of dog bite incidents and strongly believe that new legislation is urgently needed, as well as stronger sentencing in place for those found guilty of owning a dog involved in a dog attack incident.

    "The current breed-specific legislation, within the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, focuses only on the type of dog rather than the act. This flawed approached has failed to reduce the number of dog bites, demonstrating that demonising specific breeds can make them more attractive to people who want to use dogs in this way, and expanding the list would only further contribute to the problem of creating so-called 'status dogs'.

    "Action should instead focus on the 'deed not breed' and we have long been campaigning for a change in the law to concentrate on the prevention of dog attacks, rather than demonising certain breeds simply because of the way they look."

    Is the XL Bully banned in UK?

    The XL Bully will be banned in the UK by the end of the year, the Prime Minister has announced.

    The XL Bully has been linked with several attacks in recent months, including one near Wrexham in North Wales, where 22 pregnant sheep were killed.


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