HL Deb 03 April 1843 vol 68 cc318-23

The Earl of Wicklow moved the second reading of the Dogs Bill. He was sorry that the noble and learned Lord (Lord Campbell) had endeavoured to turn the subject into ridicule, by inquiring, when the bill was introduced, whether it were a Government measure. The subject was one worthy of the attention of the House, and as a bill of the same kind had already been applied to the metropolis, he saw no reason why it should not be applied to the country, where these animals were much more likely to be treated with cruelty, as there was no vigilant police to watch them. A similar provision to that contained in this Bill was already in force in London, and within a circuit of fifteen miles round London. If the principle were good for London, why should it not be extended to the rest of the country? He had received evidence from different quarters of the danger as well as cruelty of the practice of employing dogs in the drawing of carts. It was an unnatural practice; the feet of the dog were not those of a beast of burthen. From the anatomy of the dog, it was obvious that it was not calculated to draw carriages. It was quite prevalent in some parts of the country to employ these animals to draw heavy burthens, such as fish from seaport-towns to railroads, and instances had been known for dogs to draw vehicles heavily laden with goods from Brighton to Portsmouth in one day, and they had been similarly employed the following day in returning a distance of about sixty miles. True, at Kamschatka dogs were regularly used for the purpose of drawing sledges; but the breed of dogs there was peculiar, much better adapted for the work; they never used less than four of them together, and only during the winter, when instead of hard flinty roads, they had to travel over ice and snow. Numerous were the accidents occasioned by horses taking fright at these dog carts an—evidence he sincerely believed, of an antipathy which he had often noticed in animals to anything unnatural. It had likewise been found that such an employment had occasioned hydrophobia—a disease which, he understood, prevailed in this country to a greater extent than it did even in Lisbon and at Constantinople, where dogs were most numerous. It might be said, that if this bill passed, the clogs which had been employed in the way he had described would be killed, and that such would be a cruel act; he thought otherwise, and knew that many dogs now subjected to great cruelty by their owners when the animals became incapable of exertion would be spared. Besides, many dogs were bred for such a purpose, and the number would be greatly reduced if the bill were suffered to pass. A large majority, consisting of men of all parties, had supported this measure on principle in the House of Commons, and he trusted their Lordships would not now reject it on the second reading.

Lord Campbell

thought that the noble Earl had not made out a case for this bill. He had given his consent to the clause imposing this restriction upon the metropolis, on the ground that the dog-cart system was a peculiar nuisance in London; but he now thought that neither in London nor elsewhere ought they to impose that restriction upon the free use of any animal by man. Surely, if there had been any great grievance, the noble Earl would have had some stronger evidence. He had got a letter from a gentleman who had been frightened by a dog, and that was all. The noble Earl did not say the dog was in harness; for his own part, he should say, that dogs in harness were much less dangerous than dogs out of harness. He was not so good a horseman as his noble and learned Friend near him; but he was free to confess, that when these little yelping dogs came running between his horses' legs, he felt there was considerable chance of his being spilt. If, therefore, when he was taking his constitutional ride in Hyde Park, any of those little yelping dogs, so extremely dangerous to horsemen, came about his horse's heels, the best thing he could do would be to come down to the noble Earl and ask him to bring in a bill. The fact was, that the dog-cart system seemed unnatural to us because we were unused to it; as it would seem unnatural, probably, to the Esquimaux to use donkeys for that purpose. If the noble Earl complained of cruelty, was not as much cruelty shown to horses in harness, to mules in harness, to donkeys in harness? To be consistent, the noble Earl's bill should embrace them all. He should certainly oppose the noble Earl, and would conclude by moving, that the bill be read a second time that day three months.

The Earl of Carnarvon

regretted the tone which the noble and learned Lord had adopted on this subject. The question was not one which ought to be treated with ridicule. The time had gone by when remarks of that sort, distasteful to a large portion of the religious community, could be made with any effect. The bill was loudly called for by humanity; it bad been acceded to with regard to the metropolis; and when the noble and learned Lord talked of some difference between London and the country, he was at a loss to understand in what it consisted. Some noble Lords were opposed to legislating at all upon these subjects, but he had the means of knowing that no bill of that kind had been passed without producing the most beneficial results to society. He hoped their Lordships would yield to the prayer of the numerous petitions presented in favour of this bill.

The Earl of Malmesbury

gave his noble Friend, the noble Earl who had just sat down, credit for the conscientious feelings by which he was actuated. His high character for humanity, and for religious feeling, was well known; but he was afraid that his noble Friend, and those who promoted his views upon this question, in considering the interests of humanity, had altogether laid aside the rights of the proprietors of dogs employed in draught. It was upon grounds of justice that he opposed the present measure. He lived in a county where dogs were employed in draught, and he had never known of or witnessed any acts of cruelty towards them. He denied that the treatment of dogs so employed was generally cruel, and unless that fact could be proved, he maintained that the Legislature had no right to interfere with any man's property, however humble it might be. In his opinion, the existing laws were sufficiently stringent to protect animals—dogs included—from wanton cruelty. It was always a hazardous thing to legislate against what were called nuisances. To interfere with matters like this—where the very means of poor and honest labouring men to obtain their daily bread were solely concerned—was, in his judgment, a very dangerous thing. He should, therefore, oppose the further progress of the bill.

Lord Brougham

said, it was quite true that he did take a considerable share in the former bill, and he would not consent to withdraw from taking a similar share in favour of the present. He could not see any principle in the Metropolitan Bill which did not apply elsewhere, although there were undoubtedly some portions of this bill which were absurd, and which he would be glad to see altered in committee. He agreed with the noble Earls (Carnarvon and Malmesbury) who had just sat down, that it was a delicate subject of legislation, but the facts on which it was founded were undeniable. He could not see how any distinction could be made between London and Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, or any other large town. There were some objections to dogs being used in carts, which did not apply to other draught animals, that dogs did not perspire, and the consequence was, the constant protrusion of the tongue, and an incessant lapping of water. Those who used them in carts not only prevented their taking water whenever they wanted it, but they muzzled them, by which means they could not protrude the tongue. It was also to be considered, that the effect on the human mind, produced by the ill-usage of the lower animals, was to render it callous to the sufferings of human beings. The most direful malady that could afflict the human frame, was also connected with the treatment of dogs. He had been informed by an hon. Friend of his, a Member of the other House of Parliament—he meant the coroner for Middlesex—that since the passing of the Metropolitan Dog-cart Act he had not had a single case of hydrophobia brought before him. His hon. Friend was well known to be the editor of a celebrated medical work; and in that work he stated, that that most dreadful and most desperate of all maladies that could afflict humanity had, within the last three or four years, diminished six fold, so that for six cases which occurred before the passing of the act, only one case had happened since.

Lord Wharncliffe

said, if he were satisfied that the cases of hydrophobia had decreased since the doing away with the use of dog-carts in the metropolis and the districts thereof, that would be the strongest possible argument with him for supporting the motion of his noble Friend. But what he found fault with, in the present instance, was, that the facts were not clearly made out—he had doubts of the facts adduced. Then with respect to the prohibition of dog-carts in and within fifteen miles of the metropolis, that clause of the bill was not brought in with a view to humanity, but to do away with the inconvenience of allowing dogs in carts to pass through crowded streets. As to the cruelty of employing dogs in carts, he could state that the opinion of Mr. Youatt, a very learned and celebrated man both as a dog-doctor and a veterinary surgeon, was opposed to that of Mr. Sewell. Mr. Youatt was perhaps the best authority he could quote, as showing that the employing dogs as beasts of burthen was not cruel. Now, he would ask their Lordships whether the dogs drawing carts were often to be seen in the same wretched state as the cruelly-treated horses and donkeys of the humbler classes were? A dog must be kept in good condition; if his master attempted to goad him on by whipping, he would usually lie down, whilst the horse or the donkey were urged on to excessive labour by the use of the whip. He could not give his consent to the bill unless he were satisfied of the grounds on which it proceeded. There were already laws to prevent cruelty to animals, and he was sure if the noble Lords who had taken such pains—such laudable pains in this matter—would direct their attention to putting those laws in execution, they would effectually put an end to those cases of cruelty which occasionally occurred. Unless further information were obtained, he could not vote for the second reading.

The Earl of Wicklow

replied, if the bill were allowed to be read a second time, it would go up stairs to a select committee, and the noble Lord would then obtain further information.

Lord Wharncliffe,

with that understanding, would assent to the second reading.

The numbers being equal, it was (according to ancient rule) resolved in the negative, and the bill to be read a second time on that day six months.

Their Lordships divided on the question that the word "now" stand part of the motion Contents 14; Not-Contents14.

House adjourned.