Smyrna in 1907: dog owners up in arms over dog tax exemption for terriers

A cartoon terrier holds up a paper with Dog Tax written and a "canceled" stamp over it

Image above created with DALL-E from OpenAI, and editing with Canva

As editor and publisher of the Cobb County Courier, I often read through old newspapers on the Georgia Historic Newspapers site at UGA (read the section at the bottom of the article to learn more about that wonderful database).  I visit it to find material for history features and human interest filler stories.

One particularly good source of quirky and interesting stories from the early 20th Century is the Atlanta Georgian, owned by William Randolph Hearst for part of its existence.

The Georgian had a knack for picking up weird little stories that would today be called “clickbait.”

This morning I found a story about Smyrna from the June 13, 1907 edition of the Georgian.

It seems there was a controversy that pitted the owners of terriers against owners of other dog breeds involving a one-dollar “dog tax.”

Here’s the text of the article:

Are Terriers Free from Dog Taxes? Smyrna Owners Claim Their Dogs Are Immune

Terrier: A small, active, wiry dog, adapted to pursue burrowing animals, and noted for the courage and eagerness with which it “goes to earth” in pursuit of vermin. — Standard Dictionary

Through its special capacity for destroying rats, the terrier owners of Smyrna, a small town in Cobb County, have gained immunity from the dollar dog tax imposed by the town council. However, the proprietors of other breeds of canines are up in arms. They declare it is class legislation and rank injustice all around.

So strongly do they feel about it that Secretary of State Phil Cook has received a letter from a prominent resident of Smyrna asking if something can’t be done about it. Only a small number of Smyrna residents own terriers, while a very large proportion own canines of various and sundry other breeds. It is a hardship that they pay into the treasury, while the arrogant terrier goes tagless and taxless.

Secretary Cook passes it up as too much for him. In the meanwhile, it is said that Smyrna is torn by dissension, and the taxed dog owners threaten to ostracize the terrier owners.

Here’s an image of the way the article looked in the original newspaper:

About Georgia Historic Newspapers

Georgia Historic Newspapers is a part of the GALILEO project and is housed at the University of Georgia. It’s an amazing resource for anyone with an interest in the history of Georgia and its regions.

According to the “About” page on its website:

The Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive is a project of the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG), a part of Georgia’s Virtual Library GALILEO and is based at the University of Georgia Libraries. Since 2007, the DLG has partnered with universities, archives, public libraries, historical societies, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to digitize historical newspapers from around the state. The archive is free and open for public use and includes over two million Georgia newspaper pages between 1763 and 2021.

Newspaper titles are regularly digitized and added to the archive. If you are interested in including a particular title, you can visit our participation page. A majority of the newspapers on this site were digitized from the microfilm produced by the Georgia Newspaper Project (GNP). For more information about the microfilm available through the GNP, please visit their website.