Huddersfield Chronicle (12/Jun/1886) - Correspondence: The Mad Dog Craze

Mary Jagger also incorporated her thoughts about hydrophobia into her novel "Is Love a Crime?", published in December 1886.

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.



To the Editor of the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle.


Whenever we stoop to the legislation of fear we lose our dignity as Englishmen, and the persecution of dogs is the moat contemptible form of human cowardice. We hare arrived at the point when courage and common sense are on one aide, and physiologists and bureaucrats on the other ; but it is a point on which courage and common sense are on their last legs, for the latter is ready to fall a prey to every fallacy which appeals to its heart instead of reminding it of its very weak head. It is the common and cowardly characters who huddle together like a flock of frightened sheep. No one with any sense of justice or humanity can read without loathing the startling announcements which are made in our press about this craze of hydrophobia. As to dogs said to be rabid, merely to call one so is enough to have the statement blandly accepted. Without trenching on the question of the value or utter uselessness of the Pasteur experiments, no dispassionate person can fail to be struck with the absolute want of proof that the dogs said to have bitten the persons who go to him are rabid. Any dog that runs a little more quickly than usual is said to be mad. When such delusions create awe and find publicity, the human mind, never very wise in its choice or very careful of truth, will not fail to be forward in manufacturing them.

The uneducated mind is of all most prone to wild exaggerations, and wholly indifferent to the boundaries of fact, whilst in the contagion of panic popular fancy becomes delirious. Scientific men must be aware that the injury they do in inflating the fears of the public far outweighs any possible good that may arise from their so-called discoveries, and it is criminal the reckless manner in which they sow terror broadcast to obtain support for their cruel experiments. A craven terror is always latent in the human breast. It is to this ignoble and, when excited, uncontrollable delirium that the scientists appeals with bis sensational narratives, frightening the public, the result being cowardly and tyrannical legislation.

I had heard about this supposed mad dog, and as I saw the poor lost cur myself being teased most cruelly by a lot of children, I can vouch he was no more mad than myself. I was quite prepared for the usual sensational reports, and also the combination of bumbledom and panic which would follow in the shape of a most humane order to strap up the jaws of all dogs, or else drag them about at the end of a short chain. Can more cruel or childish folly be conceived? What has the world in store for itself? This reminds one of the giant of Rabelais, who choked on a pat of butter swallowed the wrong way, though he was in the habit of dining quite comfortably off windmills. I have before stated in print that rabies is the very rarest of all maladies. It is very rare indeed for dogs to bite at all unless greatly teased or long chained up ; and I can claim some experience with them. If a dog has done no harm, you have no mote right to molest him than you have to arrest an innocent man on the plea that he might break some law 20 years hence ; no more right to muzzle him, because one of his species may have bitten a person, than you have to shut up mankind in lunatic asylums because one is insane. The use of the muzzle is both barbarous and useless, and a high-spirited dog is driven almost to madness by wearing one half an hour. I have seen dogs tear their eyes out in efforts to get rid of this odious manacle. Let us have facts, not prejudices. According to your report the dog went back to its home alter being lost. Is that a sign of madness? A stranger endeavoured to secure the dog. Pray how many of us would not make some little effort in self-defence, especially when the dog had been so basely treated as he was in this place? With regard to so many wounds I should like to know the dog’s version of how they came there. Again, according to your report another youth was bitten, but the skin was not broken. Is a spade a spade? How can there be a bite without the skin being broken? Beware of children’s preposterous tales. This "mad dog" allowed itself to be beaten nearly to death in Honley, so I cannot say what further aggravation it may have received elsewhere. If the patients who have been hustled off to M. Pasteur had been as unbelieving as I am both about the dog’s madness the supposed cure, I could have promised them a speedy recovery. To trace an error to it fountain-head is to refute it, but I take it for granted we are interested in the preservation of error. How long is this reign of cowardice to endure?

Pray what dog suddenly seized (when opening his month because he is warm), or in motion, or having communion with his fellows, will not bite? He has my warmest approbation in doing so. The muzzle-and-chain craze will only increase the evil it affects to prevent. By the law of the land dumb animals cannot be treated with cruelty, but they are by the casuistry of those who administer that law. I have read of a coach and six being driven through an Act of Parliament. That feat of charioteering might be performed with advantage to those scientific Peters whose science is cruelty, and whose reasoning powers are far below the poor beasts they are persecuting. The dog requires exercise ; bis imagination is vivid, and he has marvellous powers of knowledge and memory which none of us can measure. His affections are great and his sociability immense, Think what muzzling and confinement means to such an animal as this? Before being blinded by smoke convince me that a fire has existed.

Yours very truly,
Honley, June 9th, 1886