HL Deb 08 March 1938 vol 108 cc3-5

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a short and, I think, desirable Bill which has passed through all its stages in another place. The object of it is to remove a doubt in the existing law. Section 2 of the Dogs Act, 1871, enacts that where a court of summary jurisdiction has found that a dog is dangerous, the court may make one of two orders. First, it may say that the dog is to be kept henceforth under proper control; secondly, and in the alternative, it may make an order that the dog be destroyed. There is a doubt as to whether there is or is not any right of appeal from a court of summary jurisdiction to a Court of Quarter Sessions against an order that the dog be destroyed, on the ground that the order does not constitute a conviction. Therefore, it is said in some quarters, there is no appeal from it. In actual experience some Courts of Quarter Sessions have not only decided that an appeal does lie, but have heard the appeal and even allowed it. On the other hand, other Courts of Quarter Sessions have said at the outset of proceedings that they have no jurisdiction to hear any appeal. That is an unsatisfactory position, and one which this Bill seeks to remedy. The short purpose of this Bill is to state beyond doubt that there shall be an appeal from a court of summary jurisdiction to Quarter Sessions against an order that a dog be destroyed.

Since 1871, when this Act was passed, conditions have materially changed. I understand that at that date rabies was very common in this country. It was therefore very important that the law should be strictly observed, and that any dog which was in the least bit dangerous should be destroyed. Again, in those days, the value of dogs was a good deal less than it is to-day. I am told that in these days a figure up to £1,000 may be realised for a valuable pedigree dog, and it will therefore be appreciated that in the case of some owners the matter is one of moment. Your Lordships also will be aware that in some cases, even if the dog is not particularly valuable nevertheless deep sentiment attaches to the relationship between the dog and its owner, and it can be truly stated that a life is at stake, although it may be only an animal's life. It is submitted that there will be no harm in making it quite clear that there is a right of appeal against such an order.

Before I sit down I should like to say that if your Lordships give this Bill a Second Reading there will be moved, on the Committee stage, a series of Amendments. These Amendments have been suggested by His Majesty's Government, and will be wholly agreed to by the promoters of this Bill; indeed there is no sort of dissension at all that these Amendments are desirable and acceptable. In the first place an Amendment will be moved to recast Clause 1, to simplify it and make it clear that the appeal which is to be given by that clause applies only to an order for destruction and not to an order for the clog to be kept under proper control. I think the reason for that will be obvious, because nobody can be aggrieved logically by the order to keep his dog under control. Secondly, an Amendment will be moved making it quite clear that, pending the hearing of the appeal, the order for the destruction of the dog which has been made in the court of summary jurisdiction shall be construed as if that order was one that the dog should be kept under proper control, so that in the intervening period between the date of the order and the hearing of the appeal the dog will have to be kept under control by its owner. A further Amendment will be moved to make it clear that this Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland. There will be two further, I think purely technical, Amendments, dealing with the application of the Bill to Scotland and in order to bring it into line with the provisions of the Scottish law. As I have already stated, the promoters of the Bill are entirely in agreement with the proposed Amendments, and I should like to say that they are very much obliged to the representatives of His Majesty's Government who gave suggested the Amendments, which it is thought will materially improve the Bill. I submit that this is really a non-contentious measure, and I now move that it be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Merthyr.)

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.