XL Bully owners can now register their dogs before the breed becomes illegal, the government has announced.

Owners who want to keep their dogs must apply for an exemption scheme or they can choose to have their dog euthanised and apply for compensation.

From February 1 2024, it will be illegal to own an XL Bully unless it is on the exempt list which is called the Index of Exempted Dogs.

What must XL Bully owners do if they keep their dog?

Dog owners have until the end of January to register their XL Bully for the scheme and once they have, they will be forced to comply with the strict requirements.

Owners will have to muzzle them and keep them on a lead in public and the dogs must also be microchipped and neutered.

Oxford Mail: Existing XL Bullies must be microchipped and neuteredExisting XL Bullies must be microchipped and neutered (Image: Lee Hudson/Alamy/PA)

If an XL Bully is more than a year old on January 31, 2024, they must be neutered by June 30, 2024.

Those who are under a year old at the end of January must be neutered by December 31, 2024.

What happens if XL Bully owners don't register their dog for exemption?

XL Bully owners who don’t have a certificate of exemption will face a criminal record and an unlimited fine if they are found to be in possession of an XL Bully as of February 1, 2024 and their dog could be seized.

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Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “The transition period for XL bully dogs has now started. It is important that XL bully owners read the guidance and take all the necessary steps.

“This includes applying for a certificate of exemption if you want to keep your dog and ensuring they are muzzle trained by the end of the year, as your dog will need to be muzzled and on a lead in public after December 31 2023.

“XL breeders should have also now stopped breeding their dogs and I would advise all owners to make an appointment with your vet to get your XL bully neutered as soon as possible.”