This article comes from The Scotsman.
Executive may ban electric shock dog collars in row over ‘cruelty’
MICHAEL HOWIE HOME AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
DOG owners in Scotland face a ban on using collars that deliver electric shocks to their pets, The Scotsman can reveal.
Ministers have pledged to launch a consultation on a proposed ban later this year.
The training aids, which have been branded cruel by animal welfare groups, emit a small electric shock when activated by the pet’s owner.
Using the principle of negative reinforcement, the collars can be used, for example, to teach dogs not to chase sheep.
It is estimated that around 20,000 shock collars are used by dog owners in Scotland, mostly in rural areas.
Animal welfare groups, including the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Scottish Kennel Club, have been lobbying MSPs for a ban on the collars, which they describe as cruel and unnecessary. They also say that, in the wrong hands, they are counterproductive and could cause dogs to attack other animals or even a child.
But supporters say they provide an effective method of training dogs in cases where traditional techniques fail, and have saved countless animals from being shot by farmers protecting their livestock.
In response to a parliamentary question, the rural development minister, Ross Finnie, said the Executive favoured banning the collars in principle.
“However,” he said, “before any decision is made on whether to ban the sale and use of electric shock collars, it will be necessary to consult and seek views from organisations and individuals which oppose and support the use of such devices.
“Therefore, we plan to issue a consultation paper seeking views on dog-training aids which administer an electric shock later this year.
“A decision on whether to bring forward regulations to ban their use and sale will be made in light of any consultation.”
Jean Fairlie, the parliamentary officer for the Scottish Kennel Club, said the club looked forward to a ban being implemented in Scotland. She added: “We are delighted with this move. We don’t agree with using pain to train.
“There are plenty of other reward methods for training pets,” she said. “There are courses owners can go on if they are having difficulty, but there are no courses people can go on to use these devices.”
A spokesman for the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors said: “Unwanted side-effects could easily occur when the dog being shocked becomes afraid of being in that area, or it could become afraid of, and as a result potentially aggressive towards, owners, children, other dogs or strangers.”
But Lord Duncan McNair, the parliamentary spokesman for the electronic collar manufacturers’ association, said the collars had saved dogs’ lives.
Lord McNair added: “I have seen hundreds of letters from people who say their dogs would have been shot by a farmer or caused a road accident if they hadn’t used the collar. They are only used as an adjunct to the standard training regime.”
He said there was no evidence that the collars had caused dogs to attack children.
“The RSPCA uses the word ‘might’. The hundreds of Scottish dog owners who have contacted me never use the word ‘might’. They say they are certain the collars saved their pet’s life.”
He added: “The ‘against’ campaign may not be intended as an attack on rural life, but I’m sure from a number of people I have spoken to that it certainly feels like that.”