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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - The Law and the Dog
The various Acts referred to in this article have been updated or superceded

Circa 1937

The Law and the Dog

A few Questions and Answers

1. Is a dog entitled to “his first bite” of a man?

Yes, Legally a dog is a domestic animal, without any propensity to attack men. Accordingly, the owner of a dog is not liable for the injury done by the dog unless it can be proved that he had knowledge of a dog’s viscous propensities.

2. Is a dogs entitled to “his first bite” at cattle and poultry?

No. The rule mentioned in the previous answer was altered by the Dogs Act, 1906, so far as regards cattle and poultry. The dog’s owner is liable for injury done to cattle and poultry without proof of scienter or negligence on the owners part. For the purposes of the Dogs Act, “cattle” includes horses, mules, assess, sheep, goats and swine, whilst “poultry” includes domestic fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, guinea fowls and pigeons.

3. Is it unlawful to keep a dog that has been proved to have a propensity to attack men?

No; but the dog’s owner keeps the dog at his own peril. If the dog escapes from the owner’s control and attacks and injures anyone, the owner is liable. It makes no difference that the owner was not negligent; he is under the same legal duty as if he had kept a lion or tiger or any other beast that is naturally savage.

4. If an employee keeps a viscous dog on his employer’s premises, is the employer or employee liable to a third person bitten by the dog?

(1) The employer will be liable if he ordered the employee to keep the particular dog, or if the dog was kept for the employers purposes, e.g., as a watchdog. In any such circumstances the employer will be as responsible as if he himself owned the dog.

(2) The employer will not be liable if he merely allowed his employee to keep a dog for the employee’s own purposes, e.g., as a pet.

5. If two dogs, belonging to different owners, together attack cattle, what is the liability of the respective dog’s owner’s for the damages?

Until recently it was thought that each owner would be responsible for the damage done by his own dog, but the House of Lords has now decided otherwise. Where the Dogs Act, 1906, applies, each owner is liable for the total damage done by both dogs, and mot merely for one-half or any other proportion of the total damage.

6. If the owner leaves his dog unattended in a car, in a car par, is he liable for any damage done by the dog?

If the dog has always been quiet and is used to being left unattended in a car, the owner will not be liable if the dog has been left only for a reasonable amount of time.

One the other hand, the owner will certainly be liable if the dog is known to display viscous propensities. If the dog’s temper is uncertain, the owner will be well advise not to run the risk of leaving it unattended in such circumstances.

7. Is a written agreement essential for the sale of a dog?

Although a written agreement is always desirable especially to record warranties, it is not legally essential unless the value of the dog is £10 or over. The sale of Goods Act, 1893, applies to the sale of a dog, and accordingly an agreement for the sale of a dog of the value of £10 or upwards is not enforceable by legal action unless

(1) The buyer accepts the dog. The acceptance need not be made in so many words, but may be implied if the buyer does anything that recognises the agreement for sale, e.g., showing the dog in his name, even though the purchase price has not been paid.

(2) The buyer gives something in earnest to bind the contract, or in part payment.

(3) A note or memorandum of the agreement is made and signed by the party to be charged therewith or his agent.

8. When does a dog sent on approval to a possible owner become the buyers property?

This important question arises frequently. For instance, if a dog sent on approval, dies, without the buyers fault, before he has informed the seller of his approval, on whom is the loss to fall? The answer to this question can only be ascertained by deciding another question, namely, whose property was the dog when it died? The rules are as follows.

(1) The dog remains the seller’s property until the buyer informs the seller of his approval or the accepts the dog. It then becomes the buyers property, even though the price is not paid until later. Neither the information nor the acceptance need be expressed in any formal manner; but may be implied by the buyers actions.

(2) If a time limit was fixed within which the buyer was to signify his approval, the dog remains the property of the seller until the buyer approves or accepts the dog or retains the dog after the time has expired.

(3) If no time limit was fixed, the buyer will be deemed to have accepted the dog after a reasonable time has expired. What is a reasonable time must depend on the circumstances of each case.

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Border Collie Rescue is a UK based charity, working Internationally to Rescue and Re-home Border Collies and Working Sheepdogs and promote a better understanding of the breed and its Welfare.

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