XL Bully dog owners have two weeks to make sure their pets are legal as new rules come into place.

The dogs must be muzzled in public and it will be illegal to breed, sell or abandon them from Sunday, December 31.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said advertising, gifting and exchanging the pups will also be banned.

The Government reminded owners that they can ask a vet to put their pets down and claim compensation.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “New legal restrictions for XL bullies are now less than a fortnight away.

“Owners should read the guidance and ensure they are ready to comply with the new rules, which includes keeping your XL bully dog muzzled and on a lead in public from 31 December.

“From 1 February 2024, it will also be a criminal offence to be in possession of an XL bully in England and Wales unless you have applied for an exemption.

“Please do not risk leaving it to the last minute if you want to keep your dog, you should apply now for a certificate of exemption.

“We recommend a precautionary approach – if you are unsure if your dog is an XL bully or whether any puppies may grow up to be of this dog type, you should comply with the relevant requirements and restrictions.”

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Owners have just over six weeks left to apply for an exemption certificate to keep their dogs or face potential criminal proceedings and an unlimited fine as the full ban will come into place on Thursday February 1, 2024.

To qualify for an exemption certificate, owners must prove their XL Bully has been neutered by Sunday June 30, 2024.

If an XL Bully is less than a year old by January 31, they must be neutered by the end of 2024 and evidence must be provided.

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As well as neutering their animals, XL bully owners seeking an exemption must also pay an application fee, hold active public liability insurance for their pets and ensure the dogs are microchipped.

These measures have been introduced following a rise in dog attacks over recent years.

There were about three deaths a year until 2021 but there have since been 23.

People with dangerously out of control dogs can be jailed for 14 years and banned from owning animals and their pets can be put down.