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?
Thank God for archaeologists! This just goes to show that relics from the past, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, all tell a story that contributes to the preservation of our heritage.
Thanks Louise! These dog tags are a whole lot more interesting than I expected.
Great post Susan, I wonder if it was a higher degree of surveillance as you suggest. In Aboriginal missions and reserves where I work, the local authorities tended to put people under a high degree of scrutiny particularly in terms of health issues and dogs were (and often still are) routinely killed for not being registered or being sick etc. A case of local power brokers exercising their authority to full effect just in the domain of dog registration would be an interesting insight into other residents’ perceptions of the Baker’s Flat community. Oh, I’ve finally subscribed to your blog!
Thanks Mick. Yes, I think I’ll explore this some more. It would also be interesting to see if the dogs on Baker’s Flat were different from the dogs in the broader Kapunda community. I am very much afraid that dog tags will be for me what cable ties are for Alice!
I really enjoyed that thanks! Specially the bit about “throwing them in the river or pelting them with eggs” Tho I think what a waste of the eggs! I would be interested to see what people named their dogs in these times 🙂
Thanks Jorji. I’ll do a follow-up post re names once I’ve tracked them down.
Hi Susan. I think the dog tags belong to mainly Greyhouds bred and raced in a sport favoured by the Irish called “Coursing” usually a 2 day event during the early days of Bakers Flat & Kapunda. As many as 1000 spectators on horseback would follow these dogs while whey chased the Hare & accumulating points along the way. The Kapunda Coursing Club used the paddocks of the Dutton’s Anlaby station. The Kapunda Coursing Club was typical of many: it had been founded 1878 but ceased in 1961 as the town’s population declined. “Yankee Grit” the greyhound that won the 1912 Waterloo Cup was nominated by J.R. Poysden and JJ Donovan of Kapunda. A prize of 60 Pounds was a fortune back then. A cost to each owner of 10 sovereigns to enter their dog made it a syndicate ownership in some instances. Im sure there would be drinking, gambling and much merryment before during and after the coursing event. Will email you a couple of great old photos of Greyhounds and their owners from the day. Cheers Leoni
I just noticed this last dog tag picture says District 78. This indicates Kapunda Council and they stated that if you lived in another district but nearby you would have to register your dog in that district to avoid penalties and fines. The council were pretty busy publishing lists of defaulters names in 1934 and their fines in Trove its hard to believe they had time for anything else ! Cheers Leoni
Leoni, thanks for all the information. Really interesting about the greyhounds and the coursing. I am even more intrigued now to find out from the records what breed of dogs the tags relate to.
Hi I found a dog tag from 1885 and was wondering if you can help me fine out what type of dog was registered to it and what are the dog may have lived.
Thank you for your time.
Hi Ryan. If you tell me what the district number is, I can tell you what council area the dog was registered in. The only way you can find out more information than that is if the dog registers for that council at that time have been kept. State Records should be able to tell you if they have the dog registers for that council.
Hi, Yes a very interesting article thanks. I’ve been left two South Australian dog tags by my pop who recently passed away and I wouldn’t mind knowing what district they come from, if you know this information? One is registered from 1898-1899 and its district 178, another is registered from 1918 and it is from district 191.
I’m delighted you found my blog and that the dog tag info was of interest.
District 178 was Mobilong and district 191 was Meningie (now Coorong).
what is a 1900-1901 sa dog tag worth district 32 reg no 46?
Hi Zac. District 32 is Gladstone.
Yep that’s where I’m from and found it. What’s the value ?
Yep that’s where I’m from and found it. What’s it’s worth? Thanks
Sorry, Zac, no idea what it’s worth.
Hi. Have just acquired two dog tags from a collectors show in WA. How do I know where these tags come from? They both have the coat of arms on them. One is round, dated 1897 with district no97 and the other is oval in shape, dated 1934 with district no 95. My grandson is collecting them and I would like to give him the information. Thanks
Thanks for your comment. If your dog tags are South Australian, district 97 is Onkaparinga, and district 95 (after 1933) is Freeling. In South Australia the 1897-98 year had a round shape, and the 1934-35 year was oval. Hope this helps.
Just came across this interesting post following my find this afternoon metal detecting in my local area in Adelaide Hills. I found a dog tag from 1885-1886. District no 69 and Reg No 6. I wonder if you know what district this is? How rare are these from this date I wonder?
District 69 was Crafers, so it looks like your dog tag didn’t travel too far from its original location. I’m not sure about its rarity for this date, but there are certainly lots of dog tags around.