Crack­down on use of shock col­lar on dogs

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Michael Black­ley Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Editor

‘Un­nec­es­sary suf­fer­ing caused’

SHOCK col­lars for dogs have been ef­fec­tively banned af­ter min­is­ters told the courts that they ‘com­pro­mise’ an­i­mal wel­fare.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment issued new guid­ance yes­ter­day for own­ers and prose­cu­tors stat­ing that it ‘does not con­done’ the use of the elec­tronic col­lars.

It says their use will ‘com­pro­mise dog wel­fare’ and could worsen be­hav­iour prob­lems.

It urges those en­forc­ing leg­is­la­tion to con­sider the guid­ance when de­cid­ing whether or not to pros­e­cute some­one for caus­ing ‘un­nec­es­sary suf­fer­ing’ to an an­i­mal.

Wel­fare groups wel­comed the move as ‘a ma­jor step for­ward for dog wel­fare in Scot­land’.

But dog train­ers say that, when used ap­pro­pri­ately, the col­lars can help dra­mat­i­cally im­prove dogs’ be­hav­iour and stop them from be­com­ing dan­ger­ous.

The guid­ance states that train­ing which in­cludes un­pleas­ant stim­uli or phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment ‘may cause un­ac­cept­able pain, suf­fer­ing and dis­tress’ in a dog.

It points out that caus­ing un­nec­es­sary suf­fer­ing is an of­fence un­der the An­i­mal Health and Wel­fare (Scot­land) Act 2006 ‘if the per­son knew, or ought to have known, that the ac­tion could cause un­nec­es­sary suf­fer­ing’.

It adds: ‘This may in­clude un­nec­es­sary suf­fer­ing caused by in­ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing meth­ods.’

The guid­ance says the Gov­ern­ment ‘does not con­done’ the use of elec­tronic shock or anti-bark col­lars, elec­tronic con­tain­ment sys­tems or ‘any other method to in­flict phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment or neg­a­tive re­in­force­ment’.

It states: ‘These tech­niques com­pro­mise dog wel­fare, as they may lead to ag­gres­sive re­sponses and worsen the prob­lems that they aim to ad­dress by mask­ing or ag­gra­vat­ing un­der­ly­ing be­havioural is­sues.

‘This guid­ance is ad­vi­sory and may pro­vide an aid to both dog own­ers and those in­volved in the en­force­ment of the An­i­mal Health and Wel­fare (Scot­land) Act 2006.

‘Those re­spon­si­ble for en­force­ment of the 2006 Act may re­fer to the guid­ance when is­su­ing ad­vice, warn­ing let­ters or care no­tices un­der the 2006 Act.’

Rachel Casey, di­rec­tor of ca­nine be­hav­iour and re­search at the Dogs Trust, said: ‘We are pleased that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has de­cided to take this course of ac­tion.

‘We strongly be­lieve any de­vice de­signed to use pain or fear to train a dog must be banned.’

She added: ‘Pub­lish­ing this im­por­tant guid­ance on dog train­ing aids – with par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on the wel­fare is­sues that may arise from the use of aver­sive meth­ods in­clud­ing e-col­lars – is a ma­jor step for­ward for dog wel­fare in Scot­land.

‘How­ever, we urge the Gov­ern­ment to take West­min­ster’s lead and in­tro­duce these mea­sures as sec­ondary leg­is­la­tion to en­sure the law is en­force­able.’

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Bal­anced Dog Train­ers ar­gues that the de­vices only give a short, low-fre­quency shock which, used along­side praise, can ef­fec­tively pro­mote pos­i­tive be­hav­iour in dogs.

But Caro­line Kisko, sec­re­tary of the Ken­nel Club, said: ‘Train­ing with shock stim­u­lus is un­nec­es­sary, out­dated and sim­ply masks be­havioural prob­lems, as op­posed to solv­ing them, by in­flict­ing painful elec­tric shocks.

‘This can of­ten lead to fur­ther be­havioural prob­lems.

‘We are relieved that a year later, such de­vices have been ef­fec­tively banned in Scot­land.’

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: ‘We ex­pect our guid­ance on elec­tronic col­lars and other means of phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment of dogs to be of real prac­ti­cal ben­e­fit to dog own­ers and those in­volved in the en­force­ment of the An­i­mal Health and Wel­fare (Scot­land) Act 2006.

‘Next year we plan to re­view how ef­fec­tive the guid­ance has been, and ex­am­ine whether fur­ther im­prove­ments can be made.’

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