Since the change in law surrounding XL Bully dogs, council tenants have been left confused over whether they are allowed to keep these pets in their homes.

Following a concerning rise in attacks and fatalities caused by XL Bully dogs, the government has added this breed to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

To help current owners adapt to the new laws, these changes will come into force in two stages.

On December 31, it became an offence to sell, abandon, give away or breed an XL Bully, or to have an XL Bully in public without a lead and muzzle.

From February 1, it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully dog in England and Wales unless your dog has a Certificate of Exemption.

As part of the exemption process, XL Bully owners will also have to ensure their dog is neutered and microchipped, and muzzled and on a lead when in a public place.

A breach of conditions will mean the dog is no longer exempted and could be seized by police and put to sleep, with the owner facing a criminal record and unlimited fine.

Confused XL Bully owners have taken to social media to ask whether they will still be allowed to keep their XL Bullies in their Stevenage council properties.

Confirming the situation,  Councillor Jeannette Thomas, deputy leader of Stevenage Borough Council and portfolio holder for housing, said: "As long as tenants/leaseholders show us proof of exemption - to be included on their housing file - and have met and adhere to all the requirements within that, they are meeting the legal stipulations and will not be stopped from having this breed of dog live with them.

"They need to fully comply with the XL Bully dogs law that is being introduced from February 1, as well as ensuring they adhere to all of the regulations in their tenancy agreement.

"A section on XL Bullies will be added in when we review our tenancy agreement. We are also waiting to establish if any further guidance will be brought out for landlords."

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Meanwhile, animal welfare charity the RSPCA opposes the ban on XL Bullies.

Dr Samantha Gaines, dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: "We agree that there is an urgent need to provide protection for the public, but banning XL Bullies is not the answer.

"Instead, we want to see the government commit to the enforcement and improvement of current breeding and dog control regulations, and to promoting responsible dog ownership and training.

"Improving the way dogs are bred, controlled and treated throughout their lives is key to preventing dog bite incidents.

"The ban on XL Bullies not only remains devastating for so many dogs, but is also taking a heavy toll on owners, on rescue centre staff who have grown close to dogs in their care, and to veterinary teams who face the prospect of being asked to put to sleep healthy dogs whose behaviour poses no risk.

"There is a huge risk that rescue centres and the veterinary profession will not be able to cope with the demands put on them by this law."

Owners of XL Bullies in England and Wales can apply for exemption on the UK Government website. There is a fee of £92.40 per dog and a requirement to have third party public liability insurance for banned breeds.