It is popularly, but rather erroneously, supposed that every dog is entitled to one bite. Perhaps it would be more accurate to state that every dog may with impunity have one snap or one intended bite, but only dogs of hitherto irreproachable character are permitted the honour of a genuine tasteful bite.

Once a dog, however, has displayed dangerous propensities, even though he has never had the satisfaction of effecting an actual bite, and once his owner or the person who harbours him becomes aware of these evil inclinations (scienter) either of his own knowledge or by notice, the Law looks upon such dog as a dangerous beast which the owner keeps at his peril.

The onus of proof is on the victim to show that the owner had previous knowledge of the animal's ferocity, though in reality very little evidence of scienter is as a rule required, and notice need not necessarily be given directly to the owner, but to any person who has charge of the dog.

The person attacked has yet another remedy. He can, if he is able, kill the dog before it can bite him, but he is not justified in shooting the animal as it runs away, even after being bitten.

By 28 and 29 Vict., c. 60, the owner of a dog which attacks sheep or cattle—and cattle includes horses—is responsible for all damage, and there is no necessity to prove previous evil propensities. This Act is wholly repealed by the Act called the Dogs' Act, 1906, which came into force on January 1st, 1907, but the new Act re-enacts the section having reference to damage to cattle, and says that in such cases it is not necessary for the persons claiming damages to show a previous mischievous propensity in the dog or the owner's knowledge of such previous propensity or to show that the injury was attributable to neglect on the part of the owner; the word “cattle” includes horses, asses, sheep, goats, and swine.

The Law looks upon fighting between dogs as a natural and necessary incident in the career of every member of the canine race, and gives no redress to the owner of the vanquished animal, provided the fight was a fair one, and the contestants appear to consider it so. The owner, however, of a peaceably disposed dog which is attacked and injured, or killed, by one savage and unrestrained, has a right of action against the owner of the latter. The owner of the peaceably disposed animal may justifiably kill the savage brute in order to save his dog, but he must run the risk of being able to prove that this was the only means of putting a stop to the fight.


Every dog owner must annually take out a licence for each dog he keeps. The licence, which is obtainable at all post-offices at the cost of 7s. 6d., is dated to run from the hour it is taken out until the following 31st December. The person in whose custody or upon whose premises the dog is found will be deemed its owner until proved otherwise.

The owners of certain dogs for certain purposes are, however, exempted from taking out licences, viz.: (1) Dogs under the age of six months; (2) hounds under twelve months old neither used nor hunted with the pack, provided that the Master has taken out proper licences for all hounds entered in the pack; (3) one dog kept and used by a blind person solely for his or her guidance; (4) dogs kept and used solely for the purpose of tending sheep or cattle or in the exercise of the occupation or calling of a shepherd.


Under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, 1878-1894, local authorities (i.e., county, borough, or district councils) were empowered to issue orders regulating the muzzling of dogs in public places and the keeping of dogs under control (otherwise than by muzzling). Offenders under these Acts are liable to a fine not exceeding P20.

The Statute 57 and 58 Vict., c. 57, gives the Board of Agriculture power to make orders for muzzling dogs, keeping them under control, and the detention and disposal of stray dogs; and section 2 of the Dogs Act, 1906 (known by some as the Curfew Bell Act), says that the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, shall have effect:

(a) For prescribing and regulating the wearing by dogs while in a highway or in a place of public resort of a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on the collar or on a plate or badge attached thereto:

(b) With a view to the prevention of worrying of cattle for preventing dogs or any class of dogs from straying during all or any of the hours between sunset and sunrise.


The Dogs Act, 1906, has some important sections dealing with seizure of stray dogs, and enacts that where a police officer has reason to believe that any dog found in a highway or place of public resort is a stray dog, he may seize and retain it until the owner has claimed it and paid all expenses incurred by reason of its detention. If the dog so seized wears a collar on which is the address of any person, or if the owner of the dog is known, then the chief officer of police or some person authorised by him in that behalf shall serve on either such person a notice in writing stating that the dog has been seized, and will be sold or destroyed if not claimed within seven clear days of the service of the notice.

Failing the owner putting in an appearance and paying all expenses of detention within the seven clear days, then the chief officer of police or any person authorised by him may cause the dog to be sold, or destroyed in a manner to cause as little pain as possible. The police must keep a proper register of all dogs seized, and every such register shall be open to inspection at all reasonable times by any member of the public on payment of a fee of one shilling, and the police may transfer such dog to any establishment for the reception of stray dogs, but only if there is a proper register kept at such establishment open to inspection by the public on payment of a fee not exceeding one shilling.

Another section enacts that any person who takes possession of a stray dog shall forthwith either return the dog to its owner or give notice in writing to the chief officer of police of the district where the dog was found, containing a description of the dog and stating the place where the dog was found, and the place where he is being detained, and any person failing to comply with the provisions of this section shall be liable on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts to a fine not exceeding forty shillings.


The power of making Orders dealing with the importation of dogs is vested in the Board of Agriculture, who have absolute authority in the matter.

The initial step to be taken by a person wishing to import any dog into Great Britain from any other country excepting Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, is that he must fill up an application form to the said Board, which he has previously obtained from them, in which he applies for a licence to land the dog under the conditions imposed by the Board, which he undertakes to obey.

On the form he has to give a full description of the dog, the name and address of the owner, the proposed port of landing, and the approximate date of landing, and further from lists which he will receive from the Board he must select the carrying agents he proposes should superintend the movement of the dog from the port of landing to the place of detention, and also the premises of a veterinary surgeon on which he proposes the dog shall be detained and isolated as required by the Order. An imported dog must be landed and taken to its place of detention in a suitable box, hamper, crate or other receptacle, and as a general rule has to remain entirely isolated for a period of six months.


Unquestionably the greatest enemy that the dog possesses at the present time is the motor car.

Presuming the owner of the dog is fortunate enough to know whose car it was that ran over his dog, and to have some evidence of excessive or unreasonable speed or other negligence on the part of the car driver at the time of the accident, he will find the law ever ready to assist him. A dog has every bit as much right to the high road as a motor car. Efforts have been made on the part of motor owners to get the Courts to hold that dogs on a high road are only under proper control if on a “lead,” and that if they are not on a “lead” the owner of them is guilty of negligence in allowing his dog to stroll about, and therefore is not entitled to recover: such efforts have not been successful. Even supposing a Court to hold that the fact of a dog being loose in this way or unaccompanied was evidence of negligence against his owner this would by no means defeat his owner's claim, for the law is, that though a plaintiff may have been negligent in some such way as this, yet if the defendant could, by the exercise of reasonable care, have avoided the accident, the plaintiff can still recover. There are several cases that decide this valuable principle.