HL Deb 14 May 1888 vol 326 cc110-2

said, he desired to trespass on their Lordships' attention for a very few minutes while he put a Question to his noble Friend below him in regard to a much less exciting subject than that which had just engaged their attention. He wished to ask his noble Friend, Whether Her Majesty's Government propose to introduce any Bill, or to issue any instructions, for the more effectual suppression of rabies in dogs, in conformity with the recommendations of the Committee of that House who last year reported on this subject? There was one Member of their Lordships' House who last year was with them, and this year was not with them in consequence of this mortal disease. The case was one which attracted great attention at the time. All the remedies of M. Pasteur were tried, and tried early. Everything that medical skill could accomplish was done, and the greatest courage was shown on the part of the sufferer, but all was absolutely in vain. A Committee was appointed last year with reference to this subject; and the general conclusion at which that Committee arrived was that they were prepared to accept the scientific conclusion that rabies could only be produced by the bite of the animal, and that there were no spontaneous generation of the disease. Consequently, the possibility of dealing with hydrophobia was brought within practical limits. Some countries, he might observe, had established a system of quarantine which had been completely successful.


said, the recommendation of the Committee that Local Authorities might order dogs to wear bridges and fix the responsibility on owners and not on the dogs, and might receive the dog licences, was amply supported by the evidence. It justified the Bill be had presented last year, which led to the appointment of the Committee; but his Bill was necessarily confined to the Metropolis. Whatever legislation was passed ought to extend to the whole country; and now that the Government were carrying through Parliament a Local Government Bill greater power and improved machinery ought to be at the disposal of the new Local Authorities for the efficient prevention of rabies, independently of the muzzle, which had proved unsuccessful.


said, the Government entirely sympathized with the views expressed by his noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Carnarvon); but his noble Friend would recognize that great differences of opinion prevailed as to the remedies for the evil, and that there were many people who valued their dogs more than the public good, and could not always be trusted to take proper steps, or to submit to the rules laid down by authority. His noble Friend had asked what the Government had done. They had issued Orders under the Diseases (Animals) Act, to which dogs were now subject, giving permission to Local Authorities to deal with the question, of which these authorities had largely availed themselves. There had recently been a decrease in the disease, except in Cheshire, and some of the large towns in Lancashire. He did not hesitate to express his own opinion that if muzzling were carried out effectively and universally it would prove a complete remedy; but it would be almost impossible to enforce it, as so many exceptions had to be made. It was quite true that, in certain countries, the disease had been stamped out in this way. While in Mauritius the disease prevailed, in Réunion it had been completely stamped out, and no dogs were admitted, so that there bad boon no case for years past. In a large district in Prussia a similar policy bad proved successful. He would not go through the long list of Local Authorities which had taken action under the Order of the Privy Council; and he had just heard that in Birken-head and other parts of Cheshire these powers were being employed. He did not, therefore, think it necessary to introduce a Bill. The Government had also, by the kind assistance of the authorities at Somerset House, procured the endorsement on dog licences of the symptoms of rabies, so that they might be easily discerned in the early stages, and precautions taken. It had been proposed to put a badge upon each dog licensed, and that precaution had been useful in some countries; but in England the licence was not for a special dog, and so long as the number of licences did not exceed the number of dogs in an owner's possession they availed. He would remind his noble Friend that the police were already authorized to deal with suspected dogs, which practically enabled them to take strays dogs; and, as he had already stated, considerable powers were vested in Local Authorities. Moreover, the Dog Tax was one of the imposts to be given up to the Local Authorities under the new Bill, and it would remain largely with the Local Authorities to put in force what regulations they chose for the future.


said, that no one who had any experience of the Metropolis could be unaware of the great nuisance from the excessively large number of dogs there. He hoped that the Government would in a future Session see their way to increase the tax on dogs, and so endeavour to diminish the number kept. Many of the dogs kept by people were not only of no use to anybody, but were a positive nuisance. If people could afford to possess dogs throughout the year they could afford to pay a higher tax on them.