A Suffolk rescue centre is "desperate" to rehome an abandoned dog and a pet charity has seen an increase in calls from worried owners ahead of the government's ban on XL Bullies.

From December 31, it will be against the law to sell, abandon, give away or breed an XL Bully dog, as well as to have one in public without a lead and a muzzle.

And from February 1 next year, it will become a criminal offence to own an XL Bully in England and Wales unless you have a Certificate of Exemption and adhere to strict rules around microchipping and neutering. 

Owners who decide not to keep their XL Bully dogs have been told they should take their dog to a vet to euthanise it, for which there will be a compensation scheme towards the cost. 

Becky Thwaites, head of public affairs at national pet charity Blue Cross, which has a rehoming centre in Wherstead, near Ipswich, said: “At Blue Cross we have been taking an increased number of calls from owners who are worried and confused about what the ban means for them and their dog, and anticipate more calls from owners needing support now the breed standard and guidance has been published.”

Meanwhile, Suffolk Animal Rescue has said it is 'desperately' seeking a new home for Dave, the XL Bully that was found abandoned in Thetford Forest and taken to the pound. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Dave the XL BullyDave the XL Bully (Image: Suffolk Animal Rescue)

A spokesperson said: "Unfortunately due to the new laws if we can't re-home Dave by December 31 his outlook is very bleak.

"We absolutely love this boy and he really is a gentle giant we would love to see him in a loving experienced home." 

The charity has said they will be there for any adopter and will carry out regular drop-ins and training, as well as covering the cost of exemption. 

Dave is fully muzzle trained but can be reactive to other dogs and work to train him on walks will need to continue in any new home.

"Dave is an amazing boy who had an awful start in life and we become his lifeline. We don't want to see anything bad happen to this amazing boy," the charity said.

East Anglian Daily Times: Dave was found abandoned in Thetford ForestDave was found abandoned in Thetford Forest (Image: Suffolk Animal Rescue)

The official Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs definition of an XL Bully dog is a large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size. 

An adult male has been defined as being over 20ins at the withers, while an adult female is described as being over 19ins at the withers. 

Amongst other things, the dogs are defined as having a level or scissor bite, heavy and muscular neck, stocky body, strong hindquarters, rounded feet and a glossy coat.

A Dog Control Coalition (RSPCA, Blue Cross, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Hope Rescue, Scottish SPCA, The Kennel Club and British Veterinary Association) spokesperson said they are relieved the government will allow responsible owners to keep their dogs, but have serious concerns about the short length of time owners have to comply with the rules, particularly as information on registration has not yet been released. 

"We are also concerned about Defra’s definition of an American Bully XL type, which is not only hugely subjective and open to interpretation for the individuals enforcing this legislation - creating a lack of consistency across the country – but it also places a burden on owners to interpret the guidance and determine whether their dog is or is not an ‘American Bully XL type.'" they said. 

"The UK Government urgently needs to provide more clarity for owners on how to interpret this definition, so they can understand if it will affect them and their dog."

Owners have until January 31, 2024 to apply for a Certificate of Exemption.

Applications will be subject to a £92.40 application fee.