The XL Bully Laws, dog abandonment and the national crisis waiting to happen

We’ve taken an unprecedented volume of calls, emails and messages asking us to take abandoned or unwanted dogs recently, and the XL Bully Laws are causing heartbreak before they even come into force…

This is Blu. She was found tied to a park bench in Wanstead in the cold, abandoned, unloved and in need of a lot of TLC. She has clearly recently had a litter of puppies, and with vets estimating her to be around 2.5 years old, we suspect she has had way more than one litter. She has, no doubt, been used and abused by nefarious ‘breeders’ who had no regard for her as a living soul, and just viewed her as a cash-making scheme. We were her last hope…

We’re not a re-homing centre here at Hopefield: we give a home for life to the animals, birds and reptiles that we rescue from all kinds of circumstances, but with more traditional rescue centres being full of unwanted dogs, and Blu having been due to be put to sleep on the day that we found out about her, we absolutely had to help her. While we’re on the subject of her being euthanised, we would like to say this: the vets who had to make this decision should absolutely not ever have been put in such a position in the first place. Vet practices are not set up to give a home to unwanted, abandoned animals: it’s not feasible to keep an animal indefinitely housed on their premises when they can’t find a home for it. They have to make heartbreaking, impossible decisions and it is NOT THEIR FAULT. It is the fault of the terrible humans who discard their animals like rubbish and put them in this situation in the first place.

Let’s talk about XL Bullies 

XL Bully Blu


Blu (looking much healthier now she is being loved and looked after properly) is most likely an XL Bully crossbreed and thousands like her are in mortal danger right now. The people who owned them for profit now have dogs who are no longer useful to them, and they’re being abandoned in droves. To add to the crisis, dog shelter’s hands are tied… The government website states, “From 31 December 2023, it will be illegal to rehome, sell or transfer ownership of XL Bully dogs. From this date, rescue and rehoming centres should not rehome XL Bully dogs…Rescue and rehoming organisations can claim a £100 contribution towards any euthanasia cost. Compensation must be claimed by 15 March 2024. The euthanasia must be performed by 31 January 2024.”

It is not possible for the already stretched shelters to be full of dogs that can’t ever be re-homed, and the only ‘plan’ the government seems to have is to end these dogs’ lives – with a cash incentive to do so (which is raised to £200 towards euthanasia for any owner choosing this route).  It comes as no surprise to us, given the increase of enquiries we have had here at Hopefield to take in unwanted pets, that the RSPCA are reporting that, “Animal neglect and abandonment are at a three-year-high. [This is] based on incidents of neglect and abandonment reported to the RSPCA animal rescue line, between January and July 2021–2023.” It’s a worrying time for all animal rescues right now.

What to do if you own an XL Bully

XL Bully Ghost

While our hearts are continually broken by the calls we get to take on large breed dogs that are being discarded, on the flip side we personally know many XL Bully owners who would never abandon their babies. This includes Ghost, pictured above, who won second place in our ‘Most Handsome Male’ category at our Dog Show earlier this year. He was the very epitome of a gentleman while here, and we know how devastated his owners and many like them are at this change in the law. If you do own an XL Bully or cross of, then you will need to determine if your dog meets XL Bully specific criteria. Officially XL bullies are crossbreeds and Kennel Club breed standards do not exist, so there are currently no exact specifications for them. The government has therefore created its own specifications for the breed, which includes the size of their head and muzzle, their build and the height and length of their body. The first thing you should do is to measure your dog’s height from the ground to the withers first, and if they meet the minimum height requirement, then  you should continue going through the rest of the specifications. If your dog does fall into the XL Bully category you will need to apply for a Certificate of Exemption – which will cost you £92.40 – to continue to own them. So, yes, if you want to keep your XL Bully you will be charged nearly £100 for the exemption, but you will be given £200 to put your pet to sleep… It’s mind boggling and heart breaking rolled into one ridiculous situation.

It will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully without this certificate from 1st February 2024. To comply with the rules of that certificate you will need to make sure:




    • They are kept in a secure place so they cannot escape


    • You have third party public liability insurance cover for your dog.


How can I help?

First and foremost, and more important than anything else, please, please do not take on a pet unless you are able to give it a home for life. We get more calls than we should from parents wanting to give us their dogs / cats / rabbits, etc., because their children are bored of it… Teaching your children that animals are dispensable by rehoming them once the novelty has worn off is a huge part of the national pet abandonment crisis, in our opinion. Only bring a pet into your home if you as the adult are prepared to look after it for its lifetime.

Another huge way you can help is to support your local shelter, whether that is by financial assistance, volunteering, donations (towels, blankets, food, etc.) or even just sharing posts on your social media to help raise their profile. We are entirely reliant on public support here at Hopefield, and without the kindness of animal-loving humans we simply would not be able to keep on doing what we do. Many shelters have special winter appeals happening right now, including us, to help with extra costs that go hand-in-hand with the colder weather. This winter is the winter that is going to hit the hardest because of the XL Bully situation, so do get in touch with your local rescue to see what they need the most.

Thank you for reading, and if you do know anyone who has an XL Bully, do check in with them to make sure they are okay. This is a terrifying time for the many wonderful owners of these dogs, and knowing that people have their backs will mean the world to them.

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