Crackdown on use of shock collar on dogs
‘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.’