XL bully safeguards: First phase to come into force in Scotland in February

The first phase of the Scottish government's safeguards on XL bully dogs will come into force on 23 February subject to parliamentary approval.

The second stage will then come into force from 31 July - with owners being urged to prepare.

Holyrood is replicating the regulations introduced by Westminster, which makes it a criminal offence to own an unlicensed XL bully dog without an exemption certificate.

The new rules were recently implemented in England and Wales following a spate of attacks in which people died or were injured by the breed.

It prompted some XL bully owners to move their dogs to Scotland.

The XL bully rules in Scotland

First stage (23 February):
• The dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled when out in public
• Selling, breeding, abandoning or giving the dogs away will become illegal

Second stage (31 July):
• Owners will have to apply and pay a fee, yet to be confirmed, for their dog to be added to the exemption index. The dog will also have to be microchipped and neutered.

Compensation will be payable to owners who no longer wish to keep their pet, including reimbursement for euthanasia.

Further details on when applications open for an exemption certificate will be announced in the coming weeks.

Those that are convicted of breaching the rules could face up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

Read more:
How experts predict XL bully ban will change things in 2024

Community safety minister Siobhian Brown previously stressed that the new rules would be "safeguards rather than a ban".

Announcing the dates on Wednesday, she said: "It is vital XL bully dog owners get ready for the first stage of legal safeguards that will come into force on 23 February.

"These new rules are intended to prevent risks to public safety and animal welfare and keep our communities safe.

"The second stage of legal safeguards will provide owners seeking an exemption an appropriate length of time to decide how to prepare for the forthcoming change in the law ahead of the 31 July deadline.

"The vast majority of dog owners are responsible animal lovers and we know owning a dog brings with it important responsibilities. I would encourage owners to make themselves aware of the new laws and get ready for them."