The Memo: Judicial review hearing granted over XL bully ban

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Judicial review hearing granted over XL bully ban

Emily Dunham – 22 January 2024

After a fatal attack by an XL bully dog in Staffordshire in September 2023, and records of other recent attacks, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to ban the breed, calling them “a danger to communities.” As a result, from the 31st December, it became illegal to rehome, sell or transfer the ownership of XL bully dogs in England and Wales. Those who already own them must also ensure that they are muzzled and remain on a lead when in public places. Owners have until 31st January to apply for a certification of exemption to keep their pets. This requires the owner to have the animal neutered and microchipped, and to have their dog covered by third-party liability insurance. The result of this is that it will be a criminal offence to own an XL bully from the end of the month providing, that is, that no change is made by the upcoming judicial review hearing.

The campaign group ‘Don’t Ban Me – License Me’ are a group “committed to ending Breed Specific Legislation through licensing and education,” and have raised over £190,000 through fundraising efforts to support their legal challenge. The group applied for an injunction to pause the ban on XL bully ownership, which was not granted. What was approved, however, was a judicial review hearing that will happen later this month and has the potential to stop or change the intended new rules.

A judicial review is a type of court proceeding which reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body, in the case the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. It challenges the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the conclusion reached by the public body. This means that even if the judicial review hearing finds that the rules have been introduced unlawfully, the government could follow the necessary process again in a lawful manner and reach the same conclusion, and the judicial review process would have done all that it can.