From 5 July 2024, it will be illegal to sell, gift, exchange, or breed XL Bully type dogs in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced the initial phase of restrictions for XL Bully dogs, requiring all such dogs to be muzzled and kept on a lead while in public.

New Rules for XL Bully Dogs

Starting 31 December 2024, owning an XL Bully dog without an Exemption Certificate will become an offence. Details of the application process and conditions for exemption will be announced soon, but they are expected to align with those in the rest of the UK. The requirements include that all dogs must be microchipped, neutered, kept on a lead and muzzled in public, and kept in a secure place to prevent escape.

In addition to the conditions for exemption, owners must:

  • Have third-party public liability insurance for their dog.
  • Be aged over 16.
  • Show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by an official.
  • Inform the Index of Exempt Dogs if they change address or if the dog dies.

Impact on Veterinary Professionals

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is working with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland to minimise the impact of this legislation on responsible dog owners. Insights from similar bans in Scotland, England, and Wales are being shared to help manage the transition.

The BVA recognises the potential increase in requests for euthanasia of healthy animals, creating a challenging time for veterinary professionals. To support their members, BVA is updating their member-only XL Bully resource with the latest guidance and advice to share with clients.

Vetlife offers confidential and free support for all veterinary team members, including vet nurses and non-clinical staff. They can be reached on 030 3040 2551 for assistance during this transition period.

Preparing for the Changes

With the introduction of these new regulations, pet owners and veterinary professionals in Northern Ireland are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the upcoming requirements and prepare accordingly. Further details about the application process for Exemption Certificates will be provided soon.