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This may be nit picking, but here it goes.

A man is being questioned. The man has beat dogs in the past. He does not beat dogs now. Nor does he intend to beat dogs in the future. He is asked, "Do you beat dogs?"

I think the correct answer is no. A way to ask, at least three forms of this question, is, "Do you beat dogs now?", "Have you ever beaten dogs?”, or "Do you now, or have you ever ...?"

Does English assume "have you ever" in this question, or is "Do you beat dogs?" understood generally as "Do you beat dogs now?"

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    It is understood as a 'generic' present: "Do you currently make a practise of beating dogs?" Jan 4 '16 at 18:15
  • @StoneyB: I think it might be a bit pedantic to reject, say, Does she only give birth to females, then? on the grounds that the woman being spoken about isn't currently giving birth (and might feasibly be menopausal, and thus never going to give birth again anyway). Jan 4 '16 at 18:23
  • @FumbleFingers mmm ... but it's difficult to imagine anyone asking that question (even supposing the quaerent to be ignorant of the woman's current circumstances) without implying a humorous representation of the woman's parturitive outcomes as a "habit". Jan 4 '16 at 18:32
  • @StoneyB: Yeah - the reason I appended the word then was because I thought it would suggest a facetious reference to "habit, custom & practice" (as a sort of rhetorical question). But although it might be a bit quirky, I could live with He only cries when one of his parents dies (which could hardly be called a habit the first time, and which couldn't ever happen again after the second time! :) Jan 4 '16 at 18:45
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    Shouldn't let this question pass without noting the question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" This is regarded as the prototypical "gotcha" question.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 4 '16 at 20:41
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Do you beat dogs?

usually means

Do you currently habitually or regularly beat dogs?

The "currently" refers to the moment of speaking but extends out to an indefinite time in both the past and future. But the main concern is now. What is implied, then, is

Do you beat dogs nowadays?

and the question is not asking about the past.

However, the simple present can refer to an action that is happening now, at the moment of speaking:

Right now I answer your question with untold gratitude.

So you could have a question about dog-beating which refers to dog-beating in progress at the moment of speaking:

Do you beat dogs even as I tell you that it is a cruel thing to do?

Context is king.

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