every dog is allowed one bite

The proverb is based on the old common law rule (dating at least from the seventeenth century) by which the keeper of a domestic animal was not liable for harm done by it unless he knew of its vicious propensities. Quot. 1913 explains the thinking behind this.

1902 V. S. LEAN Collectanea I. 439 Every dog is allowed his first bite i.e. is not punished.

1913 Spectator 15 Mar. 440 Every dog is allowed by the law one free bite. After the dog has once bitten a person it is presumed that its owner knows it to be ‘savage’.

1968 P. FOOT Politics of Harold Wilson x. In March 1967..Wilson rounded on the Left at a Parliamentary Party meeting, warning them that ‘a dog is only allowed one bite’ and threatening them with a General Election unless they came to heel.

1980 ‘A. BLAISDELL’ Consequence of Crime (1981) ii. She got arrested... They say every dog [is] allowed one bite... But it was a vice thing... I told her to get out.


Proverbs new dictionary.

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