In 2016 the Scottish Government consulted on whether to ban electric shock collars or not. We assumed that this would inevitably lead to a ban given the strength of the case against these devices and, critically, the fact that the Welsh Government had already gone down this route. OneKind worked hard to help make this happen, and we were deeply disappointed when it didn’t. Instead of banning shock collars, the Scottish Government chose to regulate them and since then they have been working out how to do this.
Two years later and the issue is growing in profile and public concern again. In particular, the SNP MSP Ben Macpherson has launched this petition, calling on the UK and Scottish Governments to ban shock collars. It’s already got 2000 signatures, and I would strongly encourage you to sign it. It’s vital that the SNP see the strong public support out there for animal protection if they are to invest more time and effort into improving standards.
If you’re in any doubt, here’s three reasons to back a ban and sign the petition.
- Electric shock collars are painful.
Experience is the best way to learn, which is why we have a shock collar at the OneKind office that accompanies us to meetings and such like.
The collar was brought off eBay for about £25. It has a shock intensity setting of 1 – 100. We’ve never used it beyond 20. To demonstrate it, we usually set it at 4 or 5. On this particular machine, this is enough to get the idea across. Here is a OneKind supporter trying the collar for the first time.
- Electric shock collars are unnecessary
The second thing to understand about the shock collar debate is that these are by no means irreplaceable tools when it comes to dog training. There are two overall approaches to dog training that are effectively diametrically opposed: reward and aversion based training. Reward-based training uses positive reinforcement such as treats and praise to encourage wanted behaviours and discourage unwanted behaviours, whilst aversion-based training uses pain or other negative stimuli to achieve the same goal.
Most dog trainers are agreed that reward-based training is more effective. In early 2016 when we were making the case for a ban to the Scottish Government we asked dog trainers across Scotland what they thought. These comments were particularly enlightening:
“Shock collars are unnecessary, and we can’t control what the dog associates with the aversive training. We can try to make the correct association but can never be totally sure that we aren’t accidentally going to create a dog that is aggressive” Kirsty MacQueen, Puppy School Glasgow
“Positive training methods are proven to be the best way to effectively train or counter-condition a dog. If a dog has a serious problem, why would you risk making it worse?” Laura Aitken, Braw Puppy Tutor
“I have seen aggression put into otherwise balanced dogs by use of aggressive training techniques including electric shock collars” Paul Connelly, Wolfspeak
In fact, 91% of dog trainers in Scotland who responded to our survey in 2016 said that electric shock collars should be banned.
- A ban is feasible
In 2010 the Welsh Government banned the use of electronic shock collars on dogs and cats (yes, they are used on cats too). Anyone caught using these devices in Wales could now face a fine of up to £20,000 or six months in prison, and indeed there have been successful prosecutions since the ban. The “influx of unmanageable pets into dog shelters” that industry groups warned would happen as a result of the ban didn’t materialise, and a 2015 review commissioned by the Welsh Government concluded that:
“the animal welfare cost is likely to exceed the benefits from use of electronic collars as training devices, since they may cause pain, effective alternatives exist, and the scope for misuse or abuse is too great.”