The media has been flooded with stories of dog bite incidents recently, the most notorious of which relate to the American XL Bully. This has led to a ban on the breed in England. Owners of the breed were required to have either arranged for their dogs to be euthanised before 31 January 2024, or obtained an exemption certificate by 1 February 2024.

So where does this leave insurers in respect of third party liability claims – will they be on the hook to provide cover if a policy holder’s XL Bully attacks someone? The simple answer is yes providing the attack took place before the restrictions came into effect. It gets more complicated if an attack took place after the ban. The question then becomes – what are the terms of the insurance policy? Insurers would be wise to look closely at their conditions and determine whether they exclude cover for dangerous dogs. Many will do. If so, it may be that cover is simply not in place due to the dog’s breed, and it was for their customer to obtain specialist insurance from an alternate provider (which is a condition of retaining the animal under the law).

If there is no such condition, then it would be wise for the insurer to look into indemnity. Has the policy holder complied with government conditions when caring for their dog? If not, is the policy holder in breach of a term which requires them to comply with UK law? Indemnity may be withdrawn on this ground.

A brief reminder of the restrictions placed on the XL Bully is listed below:

  •  From 1 February 2024 an owner of an XL Bully must be in possession of an exemption certificate, unless it has been euthanised by 31 January 2024;
  • The dog must be kept at the same address as is on the exemption certificate;
  • There must be bespoke third party liability insurance in place for the dog;
  • The dog must be muzzled when in a public place;
  •  The dog must be kept on a lead in public places by someone who is 16 years or older;
  •  The dog must be kept in secure conditions.

A link to the full government guidance is attached here: Ban on XL Bully dogs - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

If you need any further help or have any questions, please contact Daisy McConnell, Solicitor in our Insurance team.

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