News / September 15, 2023

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

Rishi Sunak’s announcement on 15th September was the ‘American XL Bully Dog’ would be banned by Christmas, by an amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Dangerous Dog Act

Over recent months there has been a growing call for some action to be taken as a number of dog attacks have drawn media attention and public concern. So where does this leave owners of XL bullies and how effective will this legislation be to prevent attacks?

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is widely criticised for being rushed through without proper consideration of its application, so this announcement should also attract criticism for falling into the trap of being a headline pleaser and knee jerk reaction but not dealing with the issue in a measured and rational way.

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act currently, there are a small number of banned breeds, most notably the pit bull type, but also including the Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentina and Fila Brasileiro. Other dogs which don’t fall into the banned breed category can now become a ‘Dangerous Dog’ if it is found to be dangerously out of control in a public or private setting, and the dangerous behaviour can be towards either a person or an animal.

Once a dog is identified by the Police as being a dangerous dog, it will be seized by the Police under Civil Powers and usually held in kennels at the owner’s expense. It is also a Criminal Offence to be the keeper or owner of a banned breed, so the owner would be summoned to Court for prosecution, merely for possession of the dog.

Due to changes in the legislation in 1997 , once the dog is seized the owner has a short period of time to make an application to the Court to be permitted to keep the dog alive. Before 1997 the dog would be put to sleep regardless of risk or behaviour. At Court, the owner can firstly contest that the dog is such a breed or type. In these instances the owner and the police will need to instruct experts to prepare a report for the Court to persuade them of this. Given that the XL bully is not a breed per se, there would be a set guideline of characteristics used to determine whether the dog in question is of that type.

Exemption Certificates

If the dog is found by the Court to have been one of the banned breeds, or if the owner does not contest the Police assessment, they can apply to the Court to make a ‘Contingent Destruction Order’ or ‘Exemption Certificate.’ This gives the owner the opportunity to comply with a number of conditions within a two month period. If all conditions are satisfied, the owner will be given an exemption allowing the dog to live. If no application is made or if the Court refuses to make an order, the dog would be put to sleep, regardless of its character.

The Court is likely to refuse to make such an Order where:

  • the dog has demonstrated aggressive behaviour
  • the owner is not considered ‘suitable’ to own such a dog due to criminal conviction, inappropriate housing, mental health issues.
  • the owner is not considered ‘suitable’ to own such a dog due to criminal conviction, inappropriate housing, mental health issues.

In respect of the existing banned breeds, many charities have stepped in to support owners requiring improvements to their home to ensure that the dog could not escape, but clearly their resources are limited.

Conditions on an Exemption Certificate

  • Neutering
  • Tattoo and Microchip identification
  • The dog being muzzled and kept on a lead in public, held by a person over the age of 16 at all times
  • An adequate policy of insurance is in place

A breach of any of the conditions would allow the police to seize the dog and take action.

Implementation of the Proposed Law

When the Dangerous Dogs Act first came into force, all dogs of the banned type were seized and put to sleep, at a pace that resources allowed. By the time the Exemption was brought in, there were much fewer of these dogs in existence so there was no flood of applications. With the proposed legislation, there will need to be a significant grace period to allow people to have their animals assessed and to obtain an Exemption. The capacity in police kennels would not cope with the number of XL Bully dogs in the UK. The Court system absolutely could not cope if even a quarter of the owners made applications to the Court and the Police manpower required for preparing assessment reports and attending Court for each of these applications is just unavailable, considering that Police can barely attend to a burglary in a timely manner.

The additional hurdle will be in establishing the criteria for the XL Bully type. As this dog is an American Bulldog crossed with another breed to achieve greater size and strength, there is not a consistent definition which would neatly apply for each of these dogs. This type of legislation allows an aggressive or reactive dog with an irresponsible owner to escape the reach of the ban, but a very safe and pleasant dog with an experienced owner to be dragged through the Court.

We will have to wait and see how these issues are tackled, but owners of XL bully breeds are rightly concerned about the future of life with their pets.

How We Can Help You

Find more information on our New XL Bully Training Package here to see how we can help you and your dog. Watch our head trainer Jon speak about how we can help you and your XL Bully here.

For more information on our residential dog training services please contact us at or call us on 0115 646 0905.