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XL Bully dogs

It's a criminal offence to own or possess an XL Bully dog unless you have a valid Certificate of Exemption.

It's also an offence to:

  • sell an XL Bully dog
  • abandon an XL Bully dog or let it stray
  • give away an XL Bully dog
  • breed an XL Bully dog
  • have an XL Bully dog in public without a lead and muzzle

If you own an XL Bully

The deadline to get a Certificate of Exemption for your XL Bully was 31 January 2024.

If you have a certificate, you must keep following the legal guidance for owners for the rest of the dog's life. This includes keeping the dog muzzled and on a lead in public places, and having third party public liability insurance.

If you do not have a certificate, you must contact Cleveland Police. Alternatively, you'll need to have the dog euthanised ('put down') by a vet.

If you're not sure whether your dog is an XL Bully, check the government's conformation standard. It's used by professionals to decide if a dog is an XL Bully and therefore banned.

Abandoned or stray XL Bullies

It's illegal to abandon an XL Bully or let it stray (run away). We may fine or prosecute owners traced through the dog's microchip.

If you see an XL Bully which may have strayed or been abandoned, please report it immediately. A stray or abandoned dog might be out without its owner on the street or in a public place like a park, for example. Call the dog warden service on 01642 726001, and do not try and approach the dog.


XL Bullies are legally classed as dangerous dogs, so you must contact the police about any problems. This includes XL Bullies which:

  • do not have a Certificate of Exemption
  • are with their owner in a public place, without a muzzle and lead
  • are behaving dangerously
  • are being bred illegally

If the dog is out of control and is a threat to public safety, call 999. Do not try and approach the dog.

If there is no immediate danger, you can call 101 or report it online.


If you own an XL Bully, you must have a Certificate of Exemption or you're breaching your tenancy agreement. Contact your landlord or housing association to find out if there's anything you need to do - for example, providing them with a copy of your certificate. You must also keep following the legal guidance for owners for the rest of the dog's life.