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wholly repealed by the Act called the Dogs' Act, 1906, which came into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