What to do if you realise your puppy may be an XL Bully type

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XL Bully puppy

With the imminent ban on XL Bully dogs, there will no doubt be unscrupulous breeders trying to sell their XL Bully puppies prior to the law being imposed, to ensure that they cash in prior to the cut-off date of 31 December.

With the description of what makes a dog a banned ‘type’ so vague, it may be hard to realise right away what happened. So, aside for not buying from such breeders in the first place, what are the options? Jenny Kabala, solicitor at Reeds Solicitors, who specialises in criminal and dog law, answers a few questions.

Are you legally responsible even if you ‘didn’t know’ your puppy was an XL Bully?

The simple answer is yes. Whilst, admittedly, even a legitimate and responsible breeder may not be aware – there is no requirement for them to check – it is legally the owner’s responsibility.

What should you do if you later realise what has happened?

If a person comes to realise that their dog is a prohibited type (e.g. pitty, XL bully etc) they can apply to have them exempt in the interim and then go through the process of having them formally exempt.

This does, however, come with inherent risks. In order to have a dog interim exempt you would need to bring it to the attention of the local police who, in theory, could prosecute. Of course, if the dog is well-behaved and the owner responsible etc. one would hope not but it is a bit of a mine field.

Can criminal charges be brought against you?

Yes they can. There is a civil remedy which the police can use, but many go with the criminal offence under section 3 of the DDA 1991. It is a strict-liability offence, meaning that for the purposes of the offence there is no need to show the owner knew the dog was prohibited or that the dog has ever done anything wrong.

This means that, as far as the offence itself goes, there is no tangible difference between a person who innocently purchases a dog and trains it well etc. to a person who deliberately buys such an animal as a “status dog” and uses it as a weapon/to intimidate people. Of course, the difference would be relevant for the purposes of sentencing, but that is as far as it goes.

Effectively, the law criminalises honest, responsible owners and well-behaved dogs who may never have harmed anyone.

As an animal lover you wanted to ‘save’ these puppies before they are destroyed so knew what you were getting – how do make it legal now?  Can you be sanctioned for doing the right thing?

You can apply to have the dog interim exempt with local police force for the time being – although they will likely wish to be satisfied that the dog is safe, kept in suitable conditions etc. and the owner is responsible and suitable. An application can then be made to the court to have to dog exempt.

If they agree, then the dog will have to be kept on a lead and muzzle for life, neutered, insured, etc. The biggest issue, however, is that even an exempt dog would be illegal to pass on to another person as only the specific owner/keeper is exempt. There are quite stringent conditions if an owner wishes to change the keepership of an exempt dog – i.e. it is usually necessary for them to be dying or seriously ill!

This is not to say it is impossible to get the keepership of an exempt dog changed, but it can be hard and there is a risk that the dog will be put down if refused, even if they have always behaved impeccably.

This is a guest post by Jenny Kabala. Want to write for us? Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk.

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