The Case of the 'Twa Dogs'

From Historical Hastings

The Borough Magistrates were engaged for sometime, on Thursday, in investigating a case in which two dogs, whose names did not reach us - more's the pity for posterity —figured as the principal “personages.” The charge alleged against the one dog was that he was of a ferocious disposition and went about unmuzzled, and that he made a violent attack upon the complaining dog, who, at the time he was assaulted, was not interfering at all with his assailant, but was quietly pursuing his business of following his master, who was on horseback, The dogs did not appear before the Bench, the thoughtful and merciful law providing that the case of the dumb animals should be urged or defended by the human bipeds who call them their property . So on the one side as the complaining party, Mr. Shuttleworth, of Melrose Cottage, Silverhill, put in an appearance for his dog, and Mr. Alfred Pellet, foreman butcher to Mr, George Wellerd, George-street came forward to show that the allegation that his dog was ferocious, and while in this state was permitted to go ubout unmuzzled, was false. The hall was nearly empty, the public without being apparently oblivious of of the grave character of the case, which the Magistrates were called to adjudicate upon.

Mr. Philbrick having announced that he had been retained to see that full and adequate justice was done to the alleged offender.

Mr. Shuttleworth, the next friend of the aggrieved dog, stepped into the box, and having been duly sworn, poured out the tale of the sorrows of the harmless member of the canine race, of which he is the fortunate possessor. We will tell the story in our own words, reserving the facts as detailed by the angered master.

Mr. Shuttleworth was taking equestrian exercise in the Bohemia road, his horse's head being turned towards Hastings, and his dog at his heels, on the morning of Saturday last, All went as pleasantly as a marriage bell until gentleman, horse, and dog got opposite Mr. Brisco’s Chapel farm. Here, as fate would have it,a butcher's cart, driven by Mr. Pellet, and followed by another dog — a great black surly fellow, or in the words of Burns, "a tousie tyke, black, grim and large” — must pass the opposite way.

Now whether the butcher's dog was affected by the prevalent Communistic distemper, and sought to initiate a rebellion on behalf of the people's dogs against their better to-do brethren, we have no evidence to show. We might imagine a disdainful wag of the tail on the part of the aristocratic dog, or a contemptuous snarl, or we might imagine hundreds of other things if we were skilled in lingua canum, suffice it that whatever the cause of plebeian dog rushing upon his aristocratic brother, and seizing him by the throat with the avidity of an Odgerite at a London Park railing. Then Mr. Shuttleworth angered full sore to see his dog so vilely used, reined in his steed and called aloud to the butcher to call his dog off, but — so Mr. Shuttleworth told the attentive Bench — the said butcher, “while pretending to call the dog off actually hied him on.” Was it any wonder then that the enraged master felt more pain than the injured animal? Was it any wonder that he stormed and raved, and uttered threats both loud and deep?

That he declared that he would shoot a sable-coated dog, only he hadn't his gun with him? Eventually, the combatants were separated, and each passed on his way. But as Fate again would have it they met on the return journey and another row ensued, the ill-bred dog on this occasion also getting the better of his gentle-blooded brother. The wrath of Mr. Shuttleworth was now redoubled, and he determined, as he could mot take summary vengeance upon the offending tyke owing to the unfortunate absence of his arms, he would call in the arm of the law and have the ferocious butcher's dog muzzled. His determination was considerably strengthened by seeing the said dog attack a smaller dog afterwards, and with no more provocation than his own dog had given. So he laid an information, a summons was issued, and, as we have reported above, a bench of magistrates sat in solemn assembly to hear and arbitrate on the merits of the rival dogs. That finished the case for the complaining dog, on which Mr. Philbrick rose and delivered one of the most jocular addresses we have heard for many a day, not only within the walls of this but within the walls of any other court. The Bench alone preserved its gravity, while Mr. Philbrick poured forth his mock heroics. We can only give a digest of the speech, as certain portions of the remarks having special reference to the amours of dogs must perforce be omitted. The magistrates, said Mr. Philbrick, were sitting today to try an important, a very important case, so important indeed was it that had they before they undertook it considered the task they would be called upon to discharge, they must have shrunk from the responsibility—of clothing themselves with the sanctity of the administration of justice in this case.

They were there to-day sitting in judgment upon his client—a dog—an animal of no mean respectability, an animal who had passed many years as a faithful and attached servant, who had fulfilled the honorable and onerous post of guardian of a flock of sheep, watching them by night and day, who had now passed the meridian of life, and against whose character until to-day nothing had ever been brought. Mr. Shuttleworth now came forward, he doubted not, with the full intention of speaking the truth, but he came forward with extraordinary opinions upon the character and disposition of his client, the butcher's dog, and asked them to brand this offensive animal with the stigma of ferocious, and depriving him of his civil rights with a muzzle, expose him to the scorn of the present and send his reputation down to future generations of dogs as a bye-word and a reproach to his kind. With regard to evidence, he thought the complaint might easily have been mistaken. It was not at all unnatural that the other dog made advances to his client not in the most polite manner, and his client being of a noble and gentlemanly disposition at once resented the insult; and had he not done so he would not have been a dog of honor and respectability. It was idle then to say that the dog was ferocious and unfit to go about. Much had been made of his client attacking the dog a second time during the day, but that was easily accounted for. No treaty of peace had been signed, war was therefore recommenced when the belligerents met again, and it would have been contrary to the rules of all warfare—including dog's warfare—if it were otherwise. Mr. Philbrick, after some further remarks, proceeded to argue that as the dog had not been proved to be ferocious, the Bench had no power under the Act to order the dog to be muzzled, and thus concluded, "Your worships, from my experience, have always done justice between man and man. I shall now simply call evidence as to character, and leave the case in your hands, in the confidence that you will now do justice in the novel case you are called upon to decide, viz., to arbitrate between dog and dog."

Mr. Philbrick then called as a witness to character William Soane, who deposed that he had known the butcher's dog intimately for two years, during which time he had been remarkable for his “honesty, industry, and good behaviour.” The magistrates upon that said there was no evidence against the dog, and the balance of ‘the evidence in fact went the other way, but they advised Mr. Pellet to muzzle the dog. Mr. Pellet said there was no necessity for that as he was an old sheep dog, and all his teeth were zone. And thus the case of the “Twa Dogs” ended.

Source: British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 1 July 1871 Pg. 0003

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