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Electric shock collars are readily available to members of the public, selling for an average of £20 per collar. There is currently no legislation that regulates how they are used, who uses them or how and where they are sold.
An electric shock collar is worn around a dog’s neck with an electric shock being elicited to a dog either via a remote control or a trigger such as the dog barking. Some argue that this is an effective training method.
As Scotland’s animal welfare charity we strongly believe that the use of a collar that inflicts an electric shock is a lazy and cowardly way of trying to obtain quick results when training any animal.
The Scottish SPCA first raised concerns to the UK Government in 2001 following the Home Office’s decision to ban the use of electric shock collars by Police or military dog handlers.
Police and military dog handlers are licenced by the Home Office and are thoroughly trained and regularly monitored and assessed. Therefore if the highest trained, most scrutinised dog handlers are banned from using electric collars then they should not be made available to the general public.
Our own policies prevent the use of any device that can inflict pain on an animal as a means of training, and we are responsible for the care of over 3,000 dogs per year. We care for almost every breed of dog with a range of temperaments and are able to rehabilitate them with great success, with the use of positive, reward based training.
We are aware there is a wide range of animal trainers/behaviourists who advertise their services to the public, many of whom advocate the use of electric shock collars. Anyone can market themselves as an animal behaviourist/trainer regardless of their experience or knowledge and there are currently no enforceable criteria that they must meet. This means that regulation limiting who can purchase a collar would be ineffective and difficult to enforce/monitor.
These devices are open to misuse by their very nature. The animal subjected to its use has no way of escaping the pain caused as the collar is fixed to their neck. As a hand held device, used in training scenarios that are usually undertaken in private premises, it is very difficult to prove the misuse of a collar.
There is a wealth of evidence that states that even when used in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines, there is no guarantee that the dog will associate the electric shock with the behaviour the trainer/owner is trying to eliminate.
We strongly believe in the value of structured, reward based, training programmes to address any behavioural issues that may present themselves in animals. There is no reason or need to introduce aversive, painful, stimulus in any scenario.
It is clear that the only acceptable option is to ban the sale and use of electric shock collars.
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said, “We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to issuing guidance on the use of electric shock collars under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, and their recognition that using these devices as a training method can cause unnecessary suffering.
“As Scotland’s animal welfare charity, we stand ready to play our part in enforcement. However, as electric shock collars are often used in training scenarios undertaken in private premises, it is very difficult to prove the misuse of a collar.
“The Scottish SPCA would like to see a full ban on the advertising, sale and use of electric shock collars. We strongly believe that the use of a collar that inflicts an electric shock is a lazy and cowardly way of trying to obtain quick results when training any animal.
“We look forward to contributing to the ongoing Scottish Government consultation on this important matter.”
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