In recent years there have been several tragic instances of children being killed or badly injured by dogs. The laws against the possession of particular breeds of animal seem woefully ineffectual and a return to dog licensing has been mooted in some quarters. But this is not a modern phenomena; like so many of the cases that came before the Victorian Police Courts it seems they too had a problem with dangerous dogs.
In November 1890 no less than 27 people were summoned before the magistrate at Marlborough Street for ‘allowing their dogs to be at large without being properly muzzled’.
And these were not just the ‘rough’ working classes (who generally fit the modern stereotype of the ‘dangerous’ dog owner. No, the 27 included no lesser figures than:
‘Captain Lionel Byng, Royal Horse Guards; Madame Grylls, Conduit Street; Lady Hothwell and Earl de Grey’.
They were prosecuted by Mr Blanchard Wontner (whether as a private person or in some official capacity it is impossible to say from the court report). He told the court that despite the fact that more and more summons were being taken out, ‘week after week dogs were found on the streets unmuzzled and uncared for’.
This was a temporary crack-down it seems, because he added that the process of obtaining summons and prosecuting culprits would continue until people routinely obeyed the letter of the law and muzzled their animals.
The magistrate, Mr Hanney, commented that there were some persons ‘who cared more for the comfort and convenience of their dogs than they did for their fellow-creatures’. He handed down a variety of fines from 2s to 10s and singled out one persistent offender with a penalty of 40s.
[from The Standard, Thursday, November 27, 1890]