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Navigating the XL Bully ban

18 Jan 2024 | Anna Judson


BVA President Anna Judson highlights the importance of empathy and compassion as vets continue to provide invaluable support to owners following the XL Bully ban.

Navigating the XL Bully ban  Image

XL Bully ban: guidance for vets

Stay up to date with the latest resources, webinars and developments on the XL Bully ban with this practical guide for our members. We'll continue to update this resource as new details are released.


Something I think Team Vet can all agree on is that the Government's decision to ban XL Bully type dogs poses serious ethical challenges for our profession. Opinions and decisions about euthanasing healthy dogs will differ, but it’s important to recognise that these decisions are complex and far from easy. It’s therefore concerning to hear many vet practices reporting inquiries, seemingly from the public, requesting their position on this issue and, in certain instances, this information being negatively published on social media, resulting in vicious online abuse and threats.

At BVA, we know this is an extremely difficult time for everyone involved, but it’s simply unacceptable for vet teams to face this type of intimidation. We recently issued a statement and continue to get the message out through the media that vets are here to both support and help owners of these dogs in a non-judgemental way. In fact, vets are working really hard to help as many XL Bully owners as possible to keep their dogs, but they are also supporting those who find themselves in a position where euthanasia is the only option. This is a unique role that vets can play in these incredibly difficult situations and should not be made harder by abuse of any kind.

Common goal 

It is particularly difficult to hear about the strain this situation has placed on vet teams, with some individuals feeling vilified for their decisions to go ahead with client requests for euthanasia, and others facing internal divisions where there is strong opposition to doing this.

It’s so important to remember that as vets, regardless of our position on this issue, our first concern should be the welfare of the animals under our care. It influences every decision we take and is always our priority.

It’s not unusual for vets and vet nurses to have to support owners struggling to care for their pets and support them as they make difficult euthanasia decisions based on the context of individual cases.

With the XL Bully ban, some owners will have made the difficult decision to have their dog euthanased; whether it be for medical reasons in dogs that have existing problems, or where an individual dog’s welfare will be significantly compromised by the ban.

While BVA remains firmly opposed to this ban and continues to highlight the huge impact it is having on responsible owners and happy, friendly dogs, we must remember that vets alone can help those in difficult situations, where, without euthanasia, the welfare or long-term quality of life of the dog may otherwise be at risk.  

In the case of the XL Bully ban, some owners may find that their dog’s behaviour may be affected by being kept muzzled or on a lead, or they may feel that they cannot give their dog a good quality of life while complying with the constraints set out in the exemptions. For others, owning an exempted dog may cause issues with their housing contract, there may be financial constraints, restricted access to daycare and kennelling, or many other difficult situations.

Some issues might be solved by helping with advice or paperwork, updating microchips, helping with vouchers for neutering dogs, or directing owners to dog welfare and rescue charities or behaviourists for advice on muzzling and training – all of which vet teams are doing. However, some problems will be more fundamental, and, given the legal restraints now in place, the remaining option is euthanasia.

While refusing to euthanase a dog might feel morally justified to some, the possible welfare harms if the dog is turned away may be significant. The best case is that another vet or practice will perform the euthanasia. However, if euthanasia is refused and the underlying issues aren’t resolved, that doesn’t help the situation. The dog may be abandoned, roam and be injured, then be kennelled somewhere strange and distressing before being euthanased anyway. In some circumstances, given that euthanasia is not defined as an act of veterinary surgery, there is a real risk that some owners may consider taking things into their own hands.

BVA is here for you

No matter your ethical view, it’s important that vet teams continue to support each other. To help you and your team at this difficult time, we’ve published advice by Vetlife’s Helpline Manager, Rosie Allistair, which explores the practical ways we can support our colleagues when navigating the ethical and psychological challenges that may arise from the XL Bully ban.  

In challenging times, it is crucial that we, as a united profession, stand together and prioritise the wellbeing of our colleagues. The support we extend to one another, within and between teams, will shape our collective ability to navigate these challenging circumstances.

We urge all veterinary teams to embrace active listening, open-mindedness, and empathy when interacting with colleagues who may have different viewpoints. Understanding the perspectives of those facing difficulties is paramount, and imposing strict ethical frameworks may not be perceived as supportive.

We’d also encourage practices to take a zero-tolerance approach to any abuse. Please use our practical #RespectYourVetTeam toolkit to help protect staff from online abuse, report serious concerns to the police, and reach out to Vetlife’s helpline for free and anonymous support if you are struggling.

As we continue to navigate this challenging period, we would like to thank all veterinary teams, colleagues, and those across the animal welfare sector, for their strength and resilience in protecting the welfare of the animals in their care. 



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