XL Bully Dogs ban in UK: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

To enquire about the ban on XL Bully dog breeds throughout the UK due to an alleged increased in attacks. I also wanted to ask why the ban is not being applied to Scottish legislation and solely Wales and England, and if it might apply in the future.

SNP community safety minister, Siobhian Brown wrote to the SNP about rejecting a request to join England and Wales on the crackdown, is the Scottish Government able to explain why she felt this way.

I'd also like to ask for the statistics of XL Bully dogs in the UK and in Scotland if that is available.’


The UK Government announced on 31 October that new controls will be placed on XL Bully dogs in England and Wales. This means that from 31 December 2023 it will be against the law in England and Wales to sell, abandon, breed from or give away an XL Bully dog, or have one in public without a lead or muzzle, and from 1 February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own one unless owners have successfully applied for exemption. It is understood that as at 18 December 2023, some 4,000 applications from owners in England and Wales for an exemption to keep an XL Bully dog have been made to the UK Government.

The Minister for Victims and Community Safety, Siobhian Brown MSP, has stated that with the relevant legislation now introduced at Westminster and the dates for implementation of the new controls in England and Wales set, such controls will not be introduced in Scotland on the timings set for England and Wales. The Scottish Government will continue to assess relevant evidence in this area for Scotland.

To provide some background. This proposal was announced by the UK Government with no notice given to the Scottish Government. It was also announced with no prior public consultation. Since the announcement was made Scottish Government officials have welcomed regular weekly engagement with DEFRA and representatives from the other devolved administrations to help understand the detail of the proposal.

However, it is important that any new controls in this area in Scotland is based on evidence and the Scottish Government has been carefully considering the evidence on XL Bully dogs and whether similar changes to introduce new controls in relation to this breed should be applied in Scotland. No new breed types have been added to the prohibited breed list for more than 30 years. This reflects the policy approach over the last decade or so to encourage and require responsible dog ownership to control their dogs as being key to public safety, and this applies whatever the breed may be. This ‘deed not breed’ approach is supported by welfare organisations including the Scottish SPCA as being the most effective in helping to keep dogs well-looked after and under control.

Unlike England and Wales, in Scotland we already have the system of dog control notices (DCNs) which is operated by local authorities. DCNs are an essential part of helping keep communities safe and requiring responsible dog ownership. This includes when a person owns the XL Bully type dog. This is a proportionate approach using these important powers where needed and focusing on those owners who have allowed their dogs including XL Bully type dogs to be out of control. Conditions can be added to a DCN such as muzzling in public or keeping a dog on a lead, with such decisions made by local authority officers (i.e. dog wardens).

I thought it would be helpful to also highlight data which relates to DCNs served by local authority officers. This data is taken from the National Dog Control Notice database. I would refer you to the answer the Minister for Victims and Community Safety provided to Written PQ S6W-22682 from Jamie Greene MSP on 15 November 2023 which provides details of DCNs served broken down by dog breed. In addition to the information in the PQ response, you may be interested to know that from the most recent available data, amongst the dogs where a breed has been recorded, XL Bully dogs represent approximately 2% of current DCNs in force in Scotland.

The Scottish Government always considers carefully evidence based suggestions to help improve community safety, including keeping the prohibited breed list under review, and officials have been engaging with stakeholders, including Police Scotland, National Dog Warden Association, various Scottish local authorities, the Dogs Trust, the Scottish SPCA, and a number of animal behaviourists to gather evidence on the XL Bully dog.

In your email, you request statistics on the number of XL Bully dogs in the UK and in Scotland.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

The number of XL Bully dogs in the UK and Scotland is unknown and estimates vary significantly. This is because there is no central register or list of all dogs owned in the UK including in Scotland. As such, the only information available are estimates. The UK Government has previously estimated that there may be 10,000 XL Bully dogs across the UK. However other estimates from welfare charities put the figure higher. There is no one agreed figure.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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