§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, this is a very short Bill of one clause, to amend Section 3 of the Protection of Animals Act, 1911. I will read Section 3, in order that I may show your Lordships exactly what is done. Section 3 provides:—If the owner of any animal shall be guilty of cruelty within the meaning of this Act to the animal, the Court, upon his conviction thereof, may, if they think fit, in addition to any other punishment, deprive such person of the ownership of the animal, and may make such order as to the disposal of the animal as they think fit under the circumstances.That is the law as it stands at the present moment and I propose to add this further enactment:—Further, if the owner of any dog shall be guilty of cruelty to that animal within the meaning of this Act, the Court upon the owner's conviction thereof, may, if they think fit, in addition to any other punishment, direct that such owner shall not thereafter for such time as they may direct, be granted any licence for keeping a dog or dogs, and a direction so given shall be effectual to prevent such person so convicted from holding such licence.Your Lordships will see that the whole of this clause is permissive. It gives power to the magistrates to do certain things if they think fit. It is somewhat on the lines of the power given to the magistrates to deprive the driver of a car of his licence, and it applies that power in respect of the dog because the dog is the only animal for which the owner is required by law to have a licence. I have so drawn the title of the Bill that no Amendment can be made by means of it to the Act of 1911 other than that which I now introduce, and I hope your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—266
§ LORD DAWSON OF PENN
My Lords, while sympathising with the suggestion of the noble Lord I should like to put this to him. The difficulty of adding a provision like this is brought home when one realises that a number of terms are defined in Clause 15 of the original Act. For instance, the expression "domestic animal" is defined, as well as the expressions "animal" and "captive animal" and "horse." There are a number of definitions, and yet, remarkable to relate, there is no definition of "cruelty." Since the noble Lord is proposing to amend the Bill, again introducing the term "cruelty," I would suggest to him the advisability of taking the opportunity this small Bill affords of supplying that omission in the original Act and agreeing that words shall be added to define "cruelty." I have not had an opportunity to consult any of my legal friends, but I would suggest that it is most important, in view of the controversies that have been going on of late as to what is cruelty in connection with experimentation on animals, to take this opportunity of defining "cruelty." And I would suggest for the noble Lord's consideration that he should consent to a small paragraph being added, which will be an addition to the definition clause in the original Act, to define "cruelty" as "pain inflicted wantonly and needlessly"—which I believe is a definition supported by considerable authority. I think probably he will accept a definition of that description.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
My Lords, I am sure we must all feel great sympathy with the object with which my noble friend has introduced this Bill. We are well aware of his long efforts with the object of preventing unnecessary and wanton cruelty to animals. I should like to point out to my noble friend, however, that there are certain features of the Bill which would make it, in the opinion of the Government, almost impossible to carry it out. In this country licences are issued at Money Order Offices on behalf of counties and county boroughs in England and Wales and on behalf of the Customs in Scotland. I believe there are 12,000 of these Money Order Offices, where licences can be taken out. This matter has been referred to the General Post Office for their consideration, and they have come to the conclusion that it 267 would be almost impossible for them to issue valid notices to all these 12,000 offices of the names of those people concerning whom the magistrate had to issue a direction that they were people who must not take out licences for dogs, for one, two or more years. Anybody can go to any one of these Money Order Offices and take out a licence for a dog. These small offices are often occupied with various other matters besides the issue of dog licences; how are they to know whether the applicant for such a licence is a person against whom the magistrates have issued a direction that he is not to hold a dog licence? In the opinion of the Government this is an almost insuperable objection to the working of the Bill.
Then, supposing I were a person who had cruelly ill-treated a dog and the magistrates had issued a direction against my holding a dog licence for a certain period, and supposing I nevertheless wanted a dog in my house, there would be nothing to prevent my getting my sister or my cousin or my aunt to go round to the Post Office and take out a licence for the dog. The dog would then be licensed, it would be in my house, and it would practically be my dog. Thus any person who wanted to keep a dog could easily get out a licence in somebody else's name. He might send his butler to get the licence. There are, therefore, two objections to my noble friend's Bill, first, that it would be almost impossible to enforce it, and, secondly, if it were enforced, it would be very easy to evade it. My noble friend mentioned the case of motor licences, but a licence to drive a motor car is absolutely different. The motor car licence is a personal licence, enabling the person who holds it to drive a car. You cannot get somebody else to take out a motor licence for you: you can get somebody else to take out a dog licence. The motor licence is issued to the person himself, and, if his licence has been endorsed before, he has, on making application for a new licence, to fill in a form and say so. However, the Government, as I have said, have full sympathy with my noble friend in his efforts to prevent unnecessary and wanton cruelty to animals, and they will not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill; but they do think that, in the first place, the proviso which he proposes to add to Section 3 of 268 the Act cannot be carried out, and, if it were carried out, it would be so easily evaded as to make the Bill practically inoperative. The Government cannot offer any hope that they will give the Bill in its present form any great facilities in the future, but if Amendments can be introduced in Committee to make it feasible they would very gladly see such a measure passed.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, if my noble friend Lord Desborough will allow me, I shall be very glad to consult with him and the Home Office as to any method by which we can amend this little Bill. I suggest, in answer to his arguments, that there is no law that I know of that cannot in some cases be evaded, but I do not think his arguments about the ease with which this Bill could be evaded are quite correct. Let me give him an instance. A man is brought before a county bench and convicted, and that bench says that that man is not to have a licence for one, two, or three years. That man is well known to the police, and, as long as he lives in that district, they will know that a conviction has been recorded against him. It is true that if he went some distance away, say, to Scotland or to Wales, the police there might not know the circumstances, but the police generally do know the movements of people, and it would be perfectly easy to notify them that this had occurred. I do not think that really the Bill is so difficult to carry out as my noble friend thinks. But, as I said, I shall be very glad to consult with him, and I will put down the Committee stage for any day that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House thinks proper. With regard to the remarks of the noble Lord opposite, I expressly drew the Bill so that we should not go into all these other questions as to what is cruelty, and what ought, or ought not, to be done in other circumstances. I limited the Bill to this particular enlargement of Section 3 of the original Act, and I trust that no attempt will be made to bring in other things. I do not know about your Lordships' House, but in another place it would be impossible.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
I can assure my noble friend that if he will call at the Home Office they will be very pleased to see him and to discuss the matter.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
I may add incidentally that last year three million dog licences were taken out; so that it is quite easy to get a dog licence.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.