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based its arguments on the intrinsic worth of dogs that might, in the case of a
beautiful spaniel, fetch a hundred guineas on the open market:
However extravagant these prices may appear, Your Committee conceive that
the value of any description of property must be measured by the price which
such property will fetch in the market.
( Report: iv)
The irony here, in that this mirrors the free trade in affections so complained of in
the practice of the dog-stealers, is nowhere apparent to the bill's authors: the
argument is simply deployed to the effect that any doubts as to dogs being property,
in the legal sense, should be removed. Crucially, the Home Secretary, Sir James
Graham, was won over by these arguments, straightforwardly insisting that '[t]he
possession of a dog was a possession recognised in law' ( Hansard, LXXXI, 1845:
385). Graham likewise noted the absurd legal anomaly by which an offender might
be transported for stealing a collar, as a felony, but not for stealing the dog that wore
A very short time ago, the penalty of death was attached to the larceny of a
sheep; and it was now transportation for life. The same state of the law
applied, he believed, to the stealing of a jackass: and he would wish to know
why they were to transport a person for life for stealing a jackass, or for seven
years for stealing a dog-collar worth 7 s . 6 d ., while no indictment could be
preferred for stealing a dog worth 20 1 . and upwards?
( Hansard LXXXI, 1845:1186)
The dog-stealing bill duly passed into law in 1845 (8 and 9 Vict., c.47) . Dogs were
now clearly identifiable as property, and offenders could be visited with the full
rigour of the law, with the hitherto untouchable receivers now liable to punishment
for misdemeanour. 11 This seemed to be effective enough in curbing their
depredations. Though The Times continued to report dog-stealing cases throughout
the nineteenth century, Mayhew could report at mid-century that while 'there might
still be a little doing in the “restoring” way…it was a mere nothing to what it was
formerly' (Mayhew 1968:57), with only some half-a-dozen remaining in the
professional dog-stealing line.
Domesticity and domestication: geographies of sentiment and
While the essentials of the problem are easy enough to sketch in, dog-stealing cannot
be fully understood without appreciating the wider cultural geography in which the
problem was embedded. We should remember that the principal spaces on which
the crime of dog-stealing impacted were the private spaces of the home, from whose
protection pet dogs were abducted, and the public spaces in which they were most
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