Do not neuter XL bully dogs until they are fully grown, MPs told

Young XL bully dogs should be given a stay of execution from neutering until they are fully grown, ministers have been told.

The ban on XL bully type dogs came into force on Wednesday, meaning it is now a criminal offence to own the breed in England and Wales without an exemption certificate.

Owners who do not have a certificate for their dogs can face fines, prosecution and having their pet confiscated.

To qualify for an exemption certificate, most owners must prove their XL bully has been neutered by June 30.

UK Parliament portraits
Neil Hudson MP raised the issue of young dogs being neutered (David Woolfall/UK Parliament/PA)

Owners of dogs under a year old have a longer deadline to prove their pet has been neutered: December 31.

But in the Commons, Conservative MP Neil Hudson raised concerns about the impact on the dogs’ development of neutering them at a young age.

The Penrith and the Border MP, who is a vet, told the Commons: “With the ban on XL bully dogs, owners will now have applied to keep their dogs with a certificate of exemption and part of that means the dog has to be neutered.

“The British Veterinary Association has put forward a prudent neutering suggestion, given the evidence that neutering large breed dogs before the age of 18 months can increase the risk of developmental orthopaedic disorders and other medial conditions.

“Can the Government therefore take the reasonable and small step of extending the neutering deadline to the end of June 2025 for those dogs that are under seven months of age at January 31 2024?”

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay replied: “Given his expertise in this issue as Parliament’s only vet, I listen very closely to what he proposes.

“Of course, as he knows, neutering is a necessary population control and we have already taken action responding to the greater risks of dogs at a young age by extending the deadline, but I am very happy to take away the proposal that he raises and look at that again.”

Labour MP Ian Lavery (Wansbeck), raised the case of a constituent who had not been able to register their dog before the deadline due to financial constraints and ill health.

Mr Lavery said: “There will be many people up and down the country that haven’t genuinely been able to meet that deadline.

“That means, according to legislation, they could face up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine and a destruction of that XL bully pet.

“Can the Secretary of State advise me what steps people in this position, people who genuinely wanted to register, can he advise steps they might take to remedy this awful position?”

Mr Barclay said there was a wide belief in a “proportionate approach” to the ban, but added: “The clear message is people need to register as quickly as possible.”

About 40,000 of the large, bulldog-type, American breed were expected to have been registered before the deadline on Wednesday afternoon, but there may be thousands without certificates.

The ban on XL bully dogs was introduced after a spate of attacks in recent years involving the breed.

It was added to the Dangerous Dogs Act on October 31 last year.

Restrictions then came into force dictating the dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public.

Breeding, selling or abandoning the dogs also became illegal as of December 31 2023.

Owners of XL bully dogs in Scotland will also be subject at a later date to the safeguards after the Scottish Government replicated legislation in place south of the border.

People with dangerously out of control dogs can be jailed for up to 14 years and banned from owning animals, and their pets can be put down.