XL Bully Type Dogs


There is currently no specific regulation of dog rescues, rehoming organisations or sanctuaries.

In lieu of a specific regulatory framework rescues are subject to an (often confusing) array of legal provisions.

There is also no settled or accepted definition of what it means to rescue, rehabilitate or re-home dogs. ‘Rescue’ encompasses such a wide range of activities, from those coordinating home-from-home rehoming, to those operating multi-site rescue centres. Scotland is the only UK jurisdiction to licence rescues/sanctuaries and organisations who engage in rehoming activities.

This guide is therefore intended to help navigate the legal duties on individuals or organisations who hold themselves out to the public to receive vulnerable dogs on a regular basis, with a view to rehabilitating and either rehoming, or providing long-term care. It provides an outline of legal duties applicable to rescue and rehoming organisations operating in Northern Ireland. Rescues based in Northern Ireland but operating outside of this jurisdiction may need to pay attention to regulation in the other jurisdictions in which they operate.

XL Bullies

A phased ban on the dog type known as XL Bullies? will be coming into effect over the course of 2014, bringing Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.

The first phase of the ban comes into force on 5th July 2024 and will add the type  known as XL Bully type to the list of illegal breeds [change breeds to types in link] in Northern Ireland. It will then be an offence to breed, sell, exchange, gift or abandon an XL Bully type dog. It will also be prohibited to rehome XL Bullies after this date and rehoming organisations should not take these dogs into their care from this point forward.

It will remain lawful to possess an XL Bully that entered into the care of your rescue before the 5th July 2024, and the organisation will be able to apply for an exemption certificate for such dogs. You will have to keep these dogs muzzled and, on a lead, if they are being exercised in public. The dog must also be kept securely. However, a difficult decision may need to be taken about how likely it is that such a dog will be safely and responsibly rehomed.

The next stage of the ban will come into effect on December 31st 2024 and from then on it will be unlawful to own an XL Bully without an exemption certificate. It is not yet clear what the processes will be to apply for a certificate. 

Details will be published in due course of  a compensation scheme  which will make provision to support rescue organisations with the cost of euthanising XL Bullies.

What happens if I/my organisation break the law?

If you are found to be keeping an XL Bullie without an exemption certificate, you the dog will be seized and most probably euthanised. If you are found guilty of an offence, you will be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or be sent to prison for up to six months.

Law Dangerous Dogs (Designated Type) Order (Northern Ireland) 2024