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What happens if you own an American XL bully and how will the ban work?

American XL bully dogs will be banned by the end of the year following a series of attacks, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

It comes after it emerged a man had died after being attacked by two dogs – suspected to be bully XLs – in Staffordshire and following a video of another attack that went viral when an 11-year-old girl suffered serious injuries.

Here is a look at what the move might mean.

– What will happen if you own an American XL bully dog?

Owners of the dog will not see their pets culled but will likely face new restrictions – including a requirement to have the dogs neutered.

The Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed on Saturday that there would be an “amnesty” approach, echoing the way the ban on pit bull terriers under the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in the 1990s.

Professor Christine Middlemiss confirmed that owners will need to register their American XL bully, with the dog required to be neutered and muzzled and on a lead when in public.

They will also need to be insured.

She stressed that anyone complying with new restrictions will be able to keep their dog.

– What are American XL bully dogs?

American kennel clubs have different definitions of what an American XL bully is but it is not recognised as a specific breed by the UK’s The Kennel Club, dog expert witness Colin Tennant told the PA news agency.

The American Bully Kennel Club defines the American XL bully as a crossbreed of the American pit bull terrier, olde English bulldogge, English bulldog and the American bulldog, while the American Dog Breeders Association defines it as a crossbreed of the American Staffordshire terrier and the American pit bull terrier.

Otis destroyed
Pit bull terriers are banned in the UK (PA)

– Why are they not defined as a breed in the UK?

The dog is not recognised as a specific breed by The Kennel Club.

It could be hard to define and some fear a ban could inadvertently outlaw a range of other dogs.

– How does identifying a dog as a banned breed work?

Police or dog experts can judge the type of dog.

Mr Tennant said this is done with lists of characteristics, so it can be classed as a banned breed if it ticks the boxes, even if the dog is crossbred with a breed which is not banned.

Will this make it difficult to enforce a ban?

Ministers were quick to acknowledge that the details of the ban, and the exact definition of the breed, would need to be worked out.

But officials appear confident that a consensus can be reached that will target a ban specifically on the American XL bully.

The chief veterinary officer said officials would work with vets, dog experts, the police and NGOs to find an “appropriate breed definition”.

– Which dogs are already banned in the UK?

In the UK, it is against the law to own certain types of dog.

According to the Government website, these are the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro.

Large white dogo Argentino laying down
A dogo Argentino (Alamy/PA)

It is also against the law to sell a banned dog, abandon a banned dog, give away a banned dog, and breed from a banned dog.

– What happens if you own a banned dog?

The police or local council dog warden can take it away, even if it is not acting dangerously and there has not been a complaint made.

A police or council dog expert will judge what type of dog it is and whether it is (or could be) a danger to the public. The dog will then either be released or kept in kennels while the police (or council) apply to a court.

It is the owner’s responsibility to prove the dog is not a banned type. If it is proved, the court will order the dog to be returned. If the owner cannot prove it (or they plead guilty), they will be convicted of a crime.

The owner can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months (or both) for having a banned dog against the law. The dog will also be destroyed.

If the dog is banned but the court thinks it is not a danger to the public, it may put it on the Index of Exempted Dogs and let the owner keep it.

The owner will be given a certificate of exemption, which is valid for the life of the dog, and comes with a number of conditions.

The dog must be neutered, microchipped, kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public, and kept in a secure place so it cannot escape.

The owner must take out insurance against the dog injuring other people, be aged over 16, show the certificate of exemption when asked by a police officer or council dog warden, either at the time or within five days, and let the Index of Exempted Dogs know if the owner changes address, or the dog dies.