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Privileges Of First Bite

It is popularly, but rather erroneously, supposed that every dog is

entitled to one bite. Perhaps it would be more accurate to state that

every dog may with impunity have one snap or one intended bite, but

only dogs of hitherto irreproachable character are permitted the

honour of a genuine tasteful bite.

Once a dog, however, has displayed dangerous propensities, even though

he has never had the satisfacti
n of effecting an actual bite, and

once his owner or the person who harbours him becomes aware of these

evil inclinations (scienter) either of his own knowledge or by notice,

the Law looks upon such dog as a dangerous beast which the owner keeps

at his peril.

The onus of proof is on the victim to show that the owner had previous

knowledge of the animal's ferocity, though in reality very little

evidence of scienter is as a rule required, and notice need not

necessarily be given directly to the owner, but to any person who has

charge of the dog.

The person attacked has yet another remedy. He can, if he is able,

kill the dog before it can bite him, but he is not justified in

shooting the animal as it runs away, even after being bitten.

By 28 and 29 Vict., c. 60, the owner of a dog which attacks sheep or

cattle--and cattle includes horses--is responsible for all damage, and

there is no necessity to prove previous evil propensities. This Act is

wholly repealed by the Act called the Dogs' Act, 1906, which came into

force on January 1st, 1907, but the new Act re-enacts the section

having reference to damage to cattle, and says that in such cases it

is not necessary for the persons claiming damages to show a previous

mischievous propensity in the dog or the owner's knowledge of such

previous propensity or to show that the injury was attributable to

neglect on the part of the owner; the word cattle includes horses,

asses, sheep, goats, and swine.

The Law looks upon fighting between dogs as a natural and necessary

incident in the career of every member of the canine race, and gives

no redress to the owner of the vanquished animal, provided the fight

was a fair one, and the contestants appear to consider it so. The

owner, however, of a peaceably disposed dog which is attacked and

injured, or killed, by one savage and unrestrained, has a right of

action against the owner of the latter. The owner of the peaceably

disposed animal may justifiably kill the savage brute in order to save

his dog, but he must run the risk of being able to prove that this was

the only means of putting a stop to the fight.