HC Deb 20 April 1826 vol 15 cc530-2

Mr. R. Martin moved for leave to bring in a bill "to prevent the cruel and improper Treatment of Dogs."

Sir M. W. Ridley

opposed the motion. The House, he said, had already rejected a motion to prevent cruelty to domestic animals, dogs of course included, and therefore they could not, consistently, support the present motion.

Mr. Hume

expressed a hope, that the hon. member would include cats in his bill. It was well known that cats were worried by dogs, and were, therefore, entitled to equal protection. Speaking seriously, he thought the House by admitting this bill for the protection of dogs, without including cats, would act inconsistently; and that by admitting it at all, they would turn legislation into ridicule. He would submit it to the House, whether it should not endeavour to preserve itself from the ridicule which these legislative measures would cast upon it.

Mr. Martin

said, he would make only one observation, and that was, that the hon. member for Montrose had promised him his support to the bill.

Mr. Hume

said, that to the best of his knowledge, he had never made such a promise.

Mr. Martin.

Then you did it without your knowledge.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, he would oppose the present motion of his hon. friend, on the same ground that influenced his opposition to the last. He believed there was more injury done to the cause which his hon. friend wished to support, by the manner in which he brought forward the subject, than by any other circumstance. He would recommend his hon. friend to recollect, and act upon the advice of the hon. and learned member for Knares-borough, given on a former occasion; namely, to let public opinion and the acts of individuals remedy the evil complained of. Now, without wishing to be otherwise than serious, he could not help concurring in the remark, that if the House were to legislate for dogs, there was no reason why other animals ought not to be equally protected. We were now about to clear the Statute-book of an immense number of laws; but, if such measures as the one now proposed were adopted, it would be working at the web of Penelope, and the labour would be interminable. He, therefore, trusted, that his hon. friend would withdraw his motion.

Mr. W. Smith

opposed the motion, though he thought it desirable that acts of cruelty should be punished as misdemeanours.

Mr. Martin

defended the motion and himself against the ridicule which had been directed towards both. When he brought in a bill three years ago to prevent cruelty to animals, a noble lord who took the lead in the other House told him, that if it included dogs he would support it. He saw no reason why cattle should be protected, and, at the same time, that an animal so attached to man, as to be called the friend of man, should go unprotected. The cruelties practised on dogs were frequent and notorious. One instance occurred at Oxford, which, on account of its atrocity, deserved to be mentioned. He alluded to the act of a miscreant who sawed off a part of his dog's jaw because he thought it too long. Another case, communicated to him by Mr. Hall, the magistrate of Bow-street, was, that of two boys, who flayed a dog alive; after which, one of them led him upwards of two miles, and would have gone much further, had not a gentleman thrown him and the dog into a river. Notwithstanding the mirth it had excited, he saw no reason why cats should not be protected against cruelty, and he thought it was not very creditable to the hon. member for Montrose to attempt to throw ridicule upon the subject. He had already informed the House that the hon. member had promised him his support. He had now to communicate that hon. gentleman's reason for having, on the contrary, opposed his motion—"Because," said the hon. member for Montrose, "you did not vote against flogging in the army." He thought the House was bound, in consistency, after the support they had given to previous measures, not to oppose the bringing in of the bill.

Mr. J. Benett

said, he lamented much the difficulty there was in legislating upon such matters. It would be very desirable if some measure could be contrived that would be more general in its operation. He should be ready to give his support to any bill which had for its object to prevent such a brutal exhibition as that of dog-fighting.

Sir F. Burdett

said, that the public were much indebted to the hon. member for his exertions. Great good had been de- rived from the measures brought in by him for the purpose of preventing cruelty to animals. No one could hear the cases mentioned by him of brutal treatment to dogs without shuddering. He could not comprehend how such acts could pass without punishment. It appeared to him that they were punishable at common law, as being contra bonos mores. He thought the best way would be to allow his hon. friend to bring in the bill. The evils against which it was directed were of more importance than many persons might suppose, and it was desirable that some remedy should be provided. If a remedy were possible, he did not see how any member could withhold his assent to a measure calculated to effect it. If leave was given to bring in the bill, it should have his support. It was, in his view of the subject, calculated to act more beneficially on society than the House was aware.

Sir T. Acland

said, he did not think it the most advisable course to bring in, year after year, separate acts of this kind. The hon. mover had produced two instances of cruelty towards dogs, and said he could produce hundreds of cases of cruelty towards cats; yet the former he protected, and the latter He left without protection. He could not help thinking, with the hon. member for Norwich, that all cases of excessive cruelty might be fairly left to a British jury, as the law now stood.

Mr. Martin

expressed his readiness to withdraw the present bill; but stated, that he would on a future day, introduce a measure of a more comprehensive nature.

Mr. Peel

observed, that while he felt as much as any man the justice of the principle on which his hon. friend proceeded, he much approved of his determination to withdraw this bill. Still, he must guard himself from being supposed, from the course which he took on this occasion, to say one word in favour of a more extensive measure, of which his hon. friend had given notice; and of which he could, of course, know nothing.

The motion was withdrawn.