HL Deb 17 May 1887 vol 315 cc234-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that the measure would not interfere in any way with the existing laws and regulations in regard to dogs, but it proposed some additional precautions for dealing with them. There was a large number of homeless dogs wandering about the streets of the Metropolis. Experience both in England and in other countries showed that the muzzle was to a great extent a failure, and it was very seldom that a mad dog "was seen with a muzzle on. In the early stages of rabies it was well known that a dog became very nervous and much distressed; he shrank from noise and the light, and his instinct was to hide himself from human supervision. When the disorder was becoming more serious he might escape from his master's house into the street. Sometimes also a dog managed to displace the muzzle with his paws. He argued that not only did muzzles prevent dogs lapping water, but they hindered breathing to some extent in hot weather. As far as he had studied the matter, therefore, it seemed to him that muzzling dogs to prevent rabies was a delusion and a snare. The Bill provided that after the 31st December, 1887, a dog found in any public place within the Metropolis not wearing a collar and badge shall be deemed not to be under control. Every householder or occupier of any house, or part of a house, must make and sign a return of the number of dogs kept within seven days of the demand for such a return being made by the chief officer of police for the district. The chief officer of police in every district must provide a register containing the particulars relating to all dogs kept by persons residing in the district. Every person keeping a dog must have it registered, and on the receipt of the license shall receive an official badge indicating the number of the dog on the register and the year to which the number is applicable. No dog shall be permitted to appear in any public thoroughfare without a collar having a badge; and the fact that an animal was found without the badge would be primâ facie evidence that the animal had no owner, and might be taken charge of and destroyed. It is not necessary that the registered number of a dog shall be changed when a dog is transferred from one owner to another, but the person who becomes possessed of a dog with a registered number must give notice of the change of ownership within three clear days to the principal police office of a district. This system had been found to work well in Vienna and other places, and he thought that it would obviate the necessity of muzzling. Every person keeping a dog which shows symptoms reasonably inducing a sus- picion of rabies must give notice to the chief officer of police for the district, who shall cause the animal to be examined. If found to be suffering from rabies the dog will be destroyed; if not, it will be returned to the owner.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Lord Mount Temple.)


said, the noble Lord had taken somewhat unnecessary trouble in addressing to the House an argument which did not meet any of the points to which objection had been taken. If it had been proposed to apply the Bill to the whole Kingdom there might have been a good deal to be said for the tone he had adopted in regard to the muzzling of dogs generally. It was, however, a Bill dealing only with the Metropolis, and the remarks of the noble Lord were somewhat outside the question. Opinion was not at all settled, as the noble Lord seemed to suppose, as to the question of muzzling. The noble Lord had spoken of what he regarded as the injury done to dogs by the system of muzzling; but his opinions were by no means accepted by experts. Both humanely as respected the dogs, and safely as respected human being a he thought it very desirable there should be an inquiry upon the subject, and he should move that evening for a Committee with that object. Various theories were advanced for rabies, and before further legislation took place upon this subject he thought that it was most desirable that they should have before them the Report of the Royal Commission on hydrophobia in human beings, and M. Pasteur's plan of dealing with it. This would leave them free to deal with hydrophobia in dogs. He did not propose to oppose the second reading, because the Bill would be comparatively harmless in its effect. Whether one of the modes proposed to be adopted for preventing wild, masterless dogs going about—which in itself was a source of danger—would be accepted by the public generally, whether people would be prepared to go to the expense of having arrangements made with the police by which the police wore to take into custody all the dogs they saw with premonitory symptoms of rabies, he was not prepared to say; but, at the same time, it was one of the modes which had been adopted in Vienna. The method did not supersede muzzling, because there was no attempt in the Bill to say that one method was more efficient than another. He did not want to enter upon the question whether muzzling ought to be done away with altogether or not, because it was a controverted question, and he would only say, therefore, that he should not be prepared to assent to the further progress of the Bill until there had been an inquiry upon the subject of rabies in dogs; so that good and sound evidence and information might be obtained as to the best mode of dealing with dogs for the prevention of disease and the protection of human beings. He was afraid that if he entered into this subject at the same length that the noble Lord had done, their Lordships would come to the conclusion that he himself required a muzzle.


said, he was Chairman of the Local Authority of a county—the County of Notts—in which there had, perhaps, been more rabies than in any part of the Kingdom except London, and, in compliance with requisitions from the hospital authorities, and others well qualified to judge, they had found it necessary to muzzle all the dogs in the county; and he believed that that order, in so far as it had been enforced, had been valuable in its results. But it had not been so efficacious as it might have been, owing to the fact that it was impossible to extend the regulation beyond the actual boundaries of the county, and several cases had occurred on the borders of neighbouring counties where similar regulations were not in force. In one case in a neighbouring county, a poor boy was bitten by a mad dog and died—muzzling regulations being in force in Notts at the very time, only a few yards distant. He ventured, therefore, to call the attention of the President of the Council to this point, and asked him whether it would not be desirable to give power to extend provisions against rabies beyond county borders. He expressed the hope that the Committee to be appointed would consider whether some means could not be devised for extending the area of publication in which muzzling was to be enforced.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a