Most recently, I’ve been cataloguing and photographing dog registration tags. OK, that’s a bit of a conversation stopper. But bear with me, and read on …
The Dog Act of 1860 divided South Australia into districts, and compelled all dog owners to register their dogs annually. In 1867, the revised Dog Act introduced an annual registration fee of five shillings, as well as the requirement to fit a collar to the dog, stamped with the registration and district numbers.
The Dog Act Amendment Act of 1884 increased the registration fee to seven shillings and six pence. It also introduced the metal disc, a visual improvement on the stamped collar. The metal disc varied each year in size, shape and colour, and was inscribed with the year, registration number and district of the dog registered.
So … by 1884, you had to pay 7s 6d to register your dog, and have it wear a tag. And it appears that the dog owners of Baker’s Flat were determined to toe the line. The photo below shows what appears to be a bullet hole in an 1885-1886 dog tag – the original punched hole (which usually held an attachment rivet) is broken; perhaps the dog owner was so keen to have that tag on the collar that he shot it to create a new hole.
The tag below, for 1890-1891, is heart-shaped. The attachment rivet is missing, and there’s another hole near the base, although this one doesn’t look like a bullet hole. The face has embossed dots all the way round. The back is plain and worn, but it’s still possible to make out the registration number 104 and the district 78.
The 1908-1909 tag below is circular and retains its rivet. On the face, you can see that it’s stamped ‘Regd Dog’, has an Australian coat of arms featuring the kangaroo and emu, and the date 1 July 1908 30 June 1909. On the back, the registration number is stamped 28 and the district 78.
So, you can see, there’s a lot of information on a dog tag. And from that, I should be able to track down who registered the dog. The Registrar of Dogs recorded the dog owner’s name; the number of dogs they kept and where; the dog’s name, sex and age; the dog’s colour; and the breed. These were recorded alphabetically in dog registers. This means I can find a lot more information about life and dogs on Baker’s Flat.
And some of the questions this raises for me? From research so far, it seems that the people living on Baker’s Flat did not pay rent. In fact, they actively avoided paying rent – seeing off rent collectors and unlucky surveyors by throwing them in the river or pelting them with eggs. But the 150 or so dog tags found on the site indicated that they registered their dogs – this is a very law abiding activity. Certainly, the penalty for an unregistered dog was significant – a dog owner whose dog was found without a tag could be liable to forfeit the dog and pay a fine of at least five shillings and up to forty shillings. Perhaps there was a very diligent dog inspector at work in the area, more determined than the egg-covered rent collectors?