USPCA issues guidance for owners of American XL Bully dogs in NI

USPCA issue guidance for owners of American XL Bully dogs in NI

On Friday 15 September 2023, the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced plans for the American Bully XL dog breed (or “type”) to be banned in England, Scotland and Wales by the end of the year following a series of serious and, in some cases, fatal attacks.  This ban will not apply to Northern Ireland.

Chief Exec Nora Smith:We understand the recently announced plans for the American Bully XL from the UK Prime Minister is worrying for owners – especially as there are still many details unknown.  So, we have pulled together our most asked questions about the proposed XL Bully ban.’


What is an American XL Bully?

An American XL Bully, also known as just XL Bully, is the largest dog of the American Bully breed. XL Bullies were originally developed in the USA in the 1990s and first came to the UK in 2014. The XL Bully is not a recognised breed in the UK, which means that the UK Kennel Club has not defined their appearance.

Identifying American Bully types is difficult as there are several different variants of the breed. This is why the Government is set to develop a breed standard to identify the dogs that will be impacted by the ban.

What will the ban mean for people who own an American XL Bully?

Although this change will not apply to Northern Ireland, we understand this announcement is still very worrying for owners here.  There are many details that still need to be confirmed by the English Government, such as what the exemptions requirements will be and how the breed will be defined.

What will happen in Northern Ireland?

  • The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 does not apply to Northern Ireland, except for S.8 which makes provision for corresponding legislation to be made here.
  • That corresponding legislation is The Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 and is enforced by district councils.
  • A ban on American bully XL would require a separate change to legislation in NI, either by a sitting Assembly and Executive or through an intervention by the NI Secretary of State.

What should I do if I own an American XL Bully?

As the legislation change will not apply to Northern Ireland, there is no requirement to do or make any changes.  We recommend that owners of American XL Bully dogs should continue caring for their pet as normal.  As with any dog we recommend that all American XL Bully owners ensure their dog is registered at a vet, microchipped and licensed, which is a legal requirement.  Our approach to responsible dog care, is providing your dog with appropriate physical exercise, as well as using reward-based techniques, which is a great way to keep your dog’s mind active and promote positive behaviour.  A loving environment with the appropriate care, support and training results in happy and healthy dog. 

You may want to consider taking early steps to get ahead of any proposed changes which are coming into force in England which may be introduced here at some stage. 

These include:

A conversation with your Vet about the benefits of neutering your dog.  If and when you neuter your dog depends on their age, size and overall health.  Therefore, we would recommend you have a conversation with your Vet now to enable you to make an informed decision.

Another condition of the English legislation will be wearing a muzzle when out in public.  Therefore, for a dog that is not used to wearing a muzzle, it may be beneficial to start the training process now, slowly building up a positive association with a muzzle.  Therefore, if and when the legalisation is introduced here, it will not stress either you or your dog.

The other requirement is public liability insurance.  Again, do your homework, talk to insurance companies and brokers so that you are making informed decisions. 

Our position on the breed specific legislation

Unfortunately, since the Act was introduced 32 years ago, it has not been effective in reducing dog bites and human deaths. Simply adding more breeds to the banned breed list, without addressing other aspects of this complex multi-factorial issue, will not protect the public.

There's no robust research to demonstrate that these breeds or types are any more aggressive than other dogs.  Aggressive behaviour can be influenced by factors such as how they are bred, reared and experiences throughout their life. Breed is not a good way to predict risk of aggression.

The factors behind dog bite incidents are complex and multi-factorial. Rather than banning breeds, evidence-based, well thought out strategies are required to prevent incidents from occurring and leading to serious consequences, including human death. 

Preventive strategies to deal with this serious issue should include enforcement of existing dog control legislation, along with enforcement against unscrupulous breeders who put profit before welfare is needed.  We must look behind the dog to the actions of humans.  Demonising a particular breed of dog will not reduce the number of dog attacks.