Licensed XL Bully dog numbers double in the north since England and Wales ban announced

Plans are now underway to ban the breed in the Republic

The dogs were seized by police after being contained in a room
An XL Bully dog. Restrictions have been announced for the breeds' owners in the north, while plans are underway to ban them in the Republic. (Jacob King/PA)

The number of licensed XL Bully dogs in the north has doubled in the six months since a ban on the breed was announced in in England and Wales.

It is estimated there are around 200 licensed XL Bullies in the north, and plans are underway to introduce restrictions for their owners, including a ban on breeding and ensuring the dogs are neutered.

It will not, however, be illegal to own the dogs, unlike in England and Wales where ownership without an exemption has been a criminal offence since February.

Plans are also underway to ban the breed in the Republic, it was confirmed on Tuesday.

Under plans introduced by Stormont’s agriculture, environment and rural affairs minister Andrew Muir earlier this year, the new restrictions in Northern Ireland will include owners being required to muzzle the dogs and keep them on leashes in public at all times.

The breed will also be added to the list of dangerous dogs under the Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.

Details of the number of XL Bullies in the north emerged at a recent Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council meeting.

The council’s Operations Committee was told in a report: “Currently, Northern Ireland has about 200 licensed XL Bully dogs, with 30 in Antrim and Newtownabbey.

“The number of licensed XL Bully dogs in Northern Ireland has doubled in the last six months following the UK Government’s announcement in September 2023 about banning these dogs in England and Wales.”

The report noted that 30 XL Bullies were owned by residents in the Antrim and Newtownabbey area, and that the council plan to work with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to “ensure timely communication about the new restrictions, compliance steps, and support for XL Bully owners”.

Details from a Stormont committee last month revealed XL Bullies were behind 48 (3.5%) of all 1,359 recorded dog attacks in the north in 2023/24.

The area with the most XL Bully attacks, 25, was Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, with 10 in Antrim and Newtownabbey, and eight in Belfast.

Meanwhile, in the Republic, social protection minister Heather Humphreys has confirmed plans to ban XL Bullies.

It follows the death of Limerick woman Nicole Morey (23), who was killed in an attack by her pet XL Bully last week.

The Irish government will now consult the Republic’s Attorney General on the required legislative changes to ban the breed.

Speaking in the Seanad chamber on Tuesday, Ms Humphreys said she “can’t ignore the facts” about the dogs.

“The XL Bully was the dog involved in the attack on Alejandro Mizsan in Wexford and it was also the dog involved in the attack in Limerick last week which killed Nicole Morey,” she said.

“We all love our dogs, but no dog’s life is worth more than human life.”