By Richard Rowe


Published 20 September 2023


Following the death of a man in a suspected attack by an American XL Bully dog breed, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has announced that the breed are a danger to communities and will be banned by the end of the year.  Mr Sunak confirmed he was ordering work from police and experts to legally define the breed so it can be banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 ("DDA").

This incident follows other recent high-profile incidents involving attacks by the breed, including an attack on an 11-year-old girl in Birmingham, following which the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, confirmed she was seeking urgent advice on banning the breed.  Following that attack Ms Braverman wrote on social media that the American XL Bully is a clear and lethal danger to our communities, particularly to children.

The DDA currently bans four specific dog 'types', being the Pit Bull Terrier; the Japanese Tosa; the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro.  Under the legislation it is illegal to breed, sell or swap one of these dog types. 

When the DDA was first implemented in 1991 the four banned types were subject to a mandatory destruction order.  In 1997 this mandatory destruction was removed and replaced with an Index of Exempted dogs, which is a register of banned dogs where a Court has decided the particular dog does not pose a risk to the public.  If a dog is registered on this index the owner will be allowed to keep the dog subject to conditions, including that the dog must wear a muzzle, must be kept on a lead in public, must be microchipped, must be neutered and must have third party insurance.

The DDA also imposes a criminal offence on any owner or, if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog, where any dog is dangerously out of control in any place in England or Wales (whether or not a public place).  This becomes an aggravated offence if, while the dog is dangerously out of control, it injures any person. 

A person found guilty of this offence is liable on conviction to a maximum prison term not exceeding 6 months, or a fine.  If guilty of an aggravated offence (so if a person is injured whilst the dog is dangerously out of control) the maximum sentence increases to a prison term of 14 years if a person dies as a result of the attack, or 5 years in any other case where a person is injured.

The police have the power to seize a dog during the course of any investigation under the DDA and, upon conviction, the Court has the power to order the destruction of the dog and indeed must do so if the aggravated offence has been committed, unless the Court is satisfied that the dog does not pose a risk to the public.  Expert evidence will often be required at this point.  If the Court does not order the destruction of the dog, they will often impose very onerous restrictions on its future care and handling, such as who can walk the dog, the wearing of a muzzle or even castration.  A breach of any such restriction will most likely end up with the Court ordering the destruction of the dog.

Whilst the Prime Minister says he expects amended legislation to be in place by the end of the year, the work he has ordered to legally define the breed and, thereafter, amendments to the legislation, may mean the amendment to the DDA to include the American XL Bully as a banned breed may take longer. 

Insurers that provide cover to policyholders for claims made following incidents involving dogs are well-advised to review developments on this closely and, whilst amendments to the legislation take place, review policies where they hold cover for the American XL Bully breed or crossbreed. 

It is common for both pet and household policies that extend to provide third party cover for injuries or damage caused by dogs to exclude cover for types of dogs that are banned under the DDA and whilst changes to the legislation take place, insurers should consider whether they continue to provide cover for the breed or choose to amend policies to extend any exclusion to the American XL Bully. 

Richard Rowe heads the DAC Beachcroft pet team.  Richard can be contacted on 0121 698 5356 or, by email, at