4,000 Dogs (and a few cats): Pet Licences: 1894

Young Lady with Dog, James John Hill, from the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

Young Lady with Dog, James John Hill, from the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum


A Stream of Women All Day at the Bergh Society’s Office.

The New System of Licensing Dogs Has Gone Into Effect

Owners in a Hurry to Get Licenses

Some Cats Presented Also

Young women whose carriages and tailor-made gowns attested their social standing had to line up in the street yesterday in front of the office of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with people who were hopelessly out of it if they wanted to get licenses for their pet poodles. This was because dog ethics have changed. The city no longer issues licenses and hires dog catchers. That is the right of the Bergh society, and the society is going to begin to-day to enforce its right with dog catchers in Bedford cord uniforms.

If the Plantagenet and Vere de Vere girls were wise they sent their maids to get licenses for their dogs. If they were not wise they came themselves and if they wanted the licenses at once they stood in line, most of the time in the street, for two hours. They rubbed shoulders with other girls’ maids and they had a very exciting time of it. From the time the society’s office at 10 East Twenty-second street was opened in the morning until 6 o’clock last night there was a line of women from the door halfway down the block. Several dog fights broke the monotony.

Under the new law the society issues all dog licenses at $2 each. The licenses may be renewed for $1 a year. Cats are not licensed, but they must wear a collar with the owner’s name attached. Otherwise, the society’s agents may pick them up in the street and given them chloroform forty-eight hours later if they are not claimed.

All sort of people fell in line yesterday, and grumbled because they had to wait. There were women accompanied by children who came to pay $12 for a dog license and who looked as if they might have difficulty in paying their rent, but they were willing to pay $2 for their dog. In some cases these women bought licenses for two dogs.

Not a few young ladies who drove up in their carriages brought their dogs with them and waited their turn in the line to make sure of a license. Three agents of the society were busy in the office making out the licenses and issuing the metal tags with the number of the license to be attached to the dog’s collar.

Dog owners had to fill out a blank giving the name of the dog, sex, breed, age, color, and markings. This was the application for the license, and it will be kept on file in the office. If a dog is picked up on the street with ta society’s tag on his collar his owner’s name can be obtained by referring to the application with the number of the tag on it. The old city pound has been remodeled and turned over to the society.

One old woman, shabbily dressed in black fell into line at 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon and waited an hour and a half until she worked her way up to the clerk’s window. An application blank was shoved out to her. She threw back her shawl, and there in her arms was a big black cat.

“I just want you to see him,” she said, “so’s you’ll know him if he gets lost.”

“But no licenses are required for cats,” said the clerk.

“But I don’t want to lose Tom. I’ve had him for ten years and he’s all I’ve got. Can’t you give me a license so’s I’ll be sure?”

“Can’t do it,” said the clerk. “Just put a collar on him.”

“Well, take a good look at him any way,” said Tom’s owner, “so’s you’ll know him if you do pick him up.”

The clerk looked and the old woman departed hugging her cat.

A maid who reached the clerk’s window asked him to make out the application for her.

“Well, what’s the dog’s name?” he asked.

“Tain’t a dog,” replied the maid. “It’s four gentlemen cats that I want to get permits for.”

“We don’t have any cat licenses,” said the clerk with a smile. “and they are not required.”

“Well, I’ll go where I can get them, then,” said the maid, and she swished out. But such incidents were so common yesterday that they ceased to amuse the clerks.

Two women who brought their dogs, one a poodle, and the other a terrier, got as far as the office when the dogs had trouble. They were tired of waiting, and they came together for trouble. The two women screamed, and the dogs held the floor for a minute until a policeman arrived and separated them. Then the women glared at each other.

If a dog owner was not in a hurry for a license, she, for they were nearly all women in line could leave $2 and the application at the office and receive the license by mail. “But supposing my dog should be picked up before I get the license?” asked each woman when this was explained to her.

“Oh, we’ll try to look out for him until you claim him,” was the regular reply. But few women were satisfied with this assurance. The Plantagenets and De Veres wanted to make sure and so did the old woman from the east side who had brought her children with her. Nearly 4,000 dog licenses had been granted last night.

The Sun [New York, NY] 2 may 1894: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Henry Bergh Humane Society, an alternate name for The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded by Henry Bergh [1823-1888] in 1866. Son of a wealthy shipbuilder, diplomat, and playwright, Bergh was returning from a lengthy stay in Europe and a posting in Russia, when he met the Earl of Harrowby, President of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who inspired him to devote his life to the interests of the animal kingdom. Mr Bergh was of an inventive disposition, creating an an ambulance corps for removing disabled horses from the streets as well as a derrick to winch domestic animals out of pits and wells. One of Mr Bergh’s more whimsical–and humane–creations was the clay pigeon for sport-shooting.


3 thoughts on “4,000 Dogs (and a few cats): Pet Licences: 1894

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      It does–although Miss Woolf’s writing is much more vivid. “lemon coloured gloves” and the stale cakes Flush ate in penance for biting Mr Browning and the descriptions of table-tipping from a dogs-eye view! Lovely!



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