Dog-stealing Now a Crime - Dog Licences - The Dog-owner's Responsibility - Trespassing and

Straying Dogs - Worrying Cattle

Stealing no Crime

Although a dog is a domestic animal, it is not, like other domestic animals, the subject of larceny at common law, and formerly anyone could steal a dog with impunity "on account of the baseness of its nature."

The maxim "Love me, love my dog," evidently did not appeal to the old lawyers, but their reason for excepting dogs and cats from the ordinary law relating to domestic animals is weak in the extreme.

The dog and the cat, apart from their intrinsic value, have endeared themselves to mankind, and are generally held in greater estimation than the sheep, the pig, or the goat, which are not base animals. To stea the skin of a dead dog, or to steal a dog wearing a collar, was always a criminal offence; in the latter case the thief was only charged with stealing the collar.

Dog Thieves, Beware

By statute law dog-stealing has been made a punishable offence, and anyone who unlawfully has in his possession any stolen dog, or the skin of any dog which he knows has been stolen, renders himself liable to prosecution. Any justice may restore a stolen dog to the owner.

Reward for Restoring Stolen Dog

Corruptly taking any money or reward under pretence or on account of aiding the recovery of a stolen dog, or of a dog which is in the possession of any person who is not the true owner, is an indictable offence punishable with imprisonment.

Offering Reward

Any person advertising a reward for the return of a dog, and any newspaper publishing the same, in which it is intimated that no questions will be asked, render themselves liable to forfeit 50 at the suit of any common informer.


For every dog over six months of age a licence is required, which must be taken out by the owner. The cost of a licence in Great Britain is 7s. 6d. for each dog; in Ireland, 2s. 6d.; and the licence, which is obtainable at a post-office, expires on December 31; but a reasonable time is afforded the owner for renewing this licence. The licence is stamped with the hour as well as the date of issue, and is no answer to a charge of keeping a dog without a licence if stamped subsequently to the discovery of the dog by an Excise officer. Must be Produced

The licence must be produced when required by a policeman or an Excise officer, and any person refusing to do so renders himself liable to the same penalties as would be incurred by keeping a dog without a licence.

Who is the Owner?

The person in whose custody, charge, or possession, or in whose house or premises the dog is found, is deemed to be the owner until the contrary is proved. The penalty for keeping a dog without a licence is 5 for each dog, and may be imposed for every dog kept in excess of the number for which the owner is licensed.


Puppies under six months are exempt, but the proof of the age lies upon the owner.

No licence is required for a dog kept by a blind person for his guidance.

Hound whelps under the age of twelve months which have never been entered in or used with any pack of hounds are also exempt.

Shepherds' Dogs

A farmer or a shepherd may also obtain an exemption for dogs, used solely for the purpose of tending sheep or cattle on a farm, by filling up a declaration. For four hundred sheep or less on unenclosed land, the owner may obtain an exemption for not more than two dogs; for over four hundred sheep, three dogs; and so on, but not for more than eight dogs kept on the farm.

Game Licence

Every person using a dog for taking, killing, or pursuing any game or deer must take out a game licence.

Hunting And Coursing

A game licence is not necessary for killing hares by coursing with greyhounds, or by hunting with beagles or other hounds, or for pursuing deer by hunting with hounds.

His First Bite

Domesticated animals are not supposed to be dangerous, and therefore the owner of an animal is not, in the absence of negligence on his part, liable for an act of a vicious or mischievous kind which it is not in the animal's nature usually to commit, unless he knows of the animal's mischievous propensity, and proof of this knowledge is essential in a claim for damages.

The popular notion, therefore, that every dog is entitled to his first bite is not altogether incorrect.


In order to prove scienter it must be shown that the owner knew of his dog's mischievous disposition to bite mankind. It is not enough to show that the dog had bitten another animal; but, on the other hand, it is not necessary to prove that the dog had actually bitten anyone before. Proof that the dog was savagely disposed towards people, and. was in the habit of rushing at them and attempting to bite them, would be sufficient.

The plaintiff need not call the person who was previously bitten by the dog, but he must go further than show that the dog was usually kept tied up on account of its supposed ferocity. An offer of compensation is no evidence of scienter, but a caution not to go near the dog coming from the master or someone in his employment would be.

The knowledge of a servant having charge of the dog is the knowledge of the master, and a complaint to the owner's servant or to his wife, to be communicated to him, may be evidence of knowledge. It must be shown that the servant has the actual control or management of the business or of the premises or of the animal. Who is Liable

If the defendant is not the actual owner of the dog, but is the person who keeps it on his premises or allows it to resort there, he may still be liable. But not if he is a person who has done nothing to encourage it or has not attempted to exercise any control over it.

What has been stated about scienter applies with equal force to all domestic and generally harmless animals.

Ferocious Dog

A person is entitled to keep a ferocious dog for the protection of his property and to turn it loose at night; but he must not put it in the way of access to his house, so that persons coming innocently to the house on lawful business may be injured.

" Beware of the Dog"

This notice will not protect an owner from the consequences of a person being injured who cannot read, if the person was lawfully on the premises, nor will the fact that the dog is on the chain, if the chain is so long that it can reach those who are passing.

But tramps and others who enter the premises at night without lawful excuse do so at their peril, and must accept the consequences. The question in all such cases to be decided is whether the plaintiff had a right to be on the spot, and if so, was the defendant negligent in keeping the dog or the plaintiff negligent in approaching it.

Worrying Cattle

The owner of every dog is liable for injury done to cattle or sheep by his dog, and by cattle is meant horses, mules, asses, goats, and swine. It is not necessary for the owner of the cattle to prove scienter, or even negligence, on the part of the dog's owner. And a person is liable for injury done by his dog to sheep, although the sheep were trespassing on his land.

Dangerous Dog

Where a dog is proved to have injured cattle or to have chased sheep, it may be dealt with as a " dangerous dog."

A dog which appears to be dangerous, and not kept under proper control, may, by an order of the magistrates, be destroyed without giving the owner the option of keeping it, or the owner may be ordered to keep it under control under a penalty of 1 a day for neglecting to do so.

Dog Trespassing

The owner is not liable for the damage done to a neighbour's garden on account of his dog trespassing therein; but if a person allows his dog to roam at large, knowing that it is addicted to destroying game, he will be liable on the ground of scienter.


The knowledge of the owner of a domesticated animal of its vicious propensities.

To be continued.