Update November 2018: Did Scotland break its promise to ban shock collars?
The Scottish government announced its intention to ban shock collars in January of this year. But when the official document - Dog training aids: guidance - meant to put the ban into effect was published in October, many felt that it did not deliver what was initially promised.
The guidance states that the "Scottish government does not condone" the use of shock collars but does not explicitly ban the devices. The nature of the document is outlined as "advisory" and states that "a Court may, at its discretion, consider the guidance in a prosecution."
The guidance in its current shape leaves room for the devices to be used without any legal repercussions, which has led animal rights supporters to say the government has gone back on its word to ban shock collars.
Should the ban be legislative?
Last month, Labour MPS Colin Smyth asked the government if the “use of electric shock collars is permitted under any circumstances”.
“The use of electronic training aids is not prohibited,” responded rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon, but “may be, depending upon the circumstances of the case, an offence.”
Colin Smyth and other animal rights supporters feel that the government has thus broken its promise and has done very little to protect animals from shock collars.
He argued that in order to truly protect animal rights, the government should ban shock collars by legislation.
The guidance was agreed with animal welfare charities, says the Government
“The guidance was agreed with the Kennel Club and key animal welfare organisations including Dogs Trust, Scottish SPCA and the British Veterinary Association,” said a spokesperson for the Scottish government.
The effectiveness of the guidance should be reviewed in 12 months’ time.
The Kennel Club’s #banshockcollars found a lot of support in Scotland back in 2017 when the government ran an extensive consultation followed by the an announcement that the government was going to introduce a ban by way of guidance.
How campaigns to ban shock collars in Scotland encouraged a consultation in England
Spurred on by the success of the campaign in Scotland, The Kennel Club increased efforts in England, which led to a consultation in the spring of 2017.
After a strong response in support of banning shock collars, in August 2018 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in England announced a new legislation banning shock collars.
The ban does not extend to invisible shock barriers used for containment as a lot of pet owners insisted that such prohibition would put their animals in danger of being run over by cars.
Update May 2018: Environment Secretary Michael Gove announces complete ban in England
The plan for a complete ban on all electric shock collars has been abandoned following criticism from vets and pet owners.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced his intention to introduce a total ban on electric shock collars for pets two months ago. But after a consultation was launched in March, many pet owners and vets expressed concerns that a total ban would mean they won’t be able to use shock collars to prevent pets from straying onto the road.
It is expected that the ban will now be limited to collars used for training and exempt collars used for containment.
A group of vets, who use shock collars to contain their pets, sent a letter to The Times stressing that collars can prevent hundreds of thousands of pet deaths every year, and urged Gove to exempt containment fence collars from the ban.
Prominent public figures, such as former transport minister John Hayes and Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave, have also spoken against a total ban, worried they won’t be able to use containment systems after the ban’s come into force and that this could compromise their pets’ safety.
The RSPCA still supports a total ban on shock collars and urges pet owners to use alternative methods, warning that shock collars cause distress.
Check out our guide to the best pet insurance companies.
Why are animal groups campaigning for a shock collar ban?
Electric shock collars for dogs and cats are set to be banned in England under government proposals.
Collars designed to control a pet’s behaviour by giving them an electric shock or by releasing a noxious spray have been described as “torturous” by animal groups. The collars are already banned in Scotland and Wales.
Shock collars cause harm
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We are a nation of animal lovers, and the use of these punitive devices can cause harm and suffering, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to our pets.
“Organisations and MPs have campaigned against the use of shock collars passionately and we are listening to their concerns.
“We are now proposing to ban the use of electric shock collars to improve the welfare of animals.”
The devices can be operated by remote control and are designed to train pets, however, charities such as the Dogs Trust say they are unlikely to work and can cause more harm than good.
A consultation will be launched by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, seeking views on the plans. It will run until 20 April.
Impact of shock collars on mental and physical well-being
Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research at the Dogs Trust, told the Independent the collars are “torturous devices that can send between 100 to 6,000 Volts to a dog’s neck”.
She said: “It is both unnecessary and cruel to resort to the use of these collars on dogs. This type of device is not only painful for a dog, it can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. A dog can’t understand when or why it’s being shocked and this can cause it immense distress, with many dogs exhibiting signs of anxiety and worsened behaviour as a result.”
Pet owners may see the collars as a quick fix to deal with a misbehaving dog or cat but many experts say the best way to train pets is through positive reinforcement, which is also much kinder.
Check out our article on training methods and alternatives to shock collars.
Other Pet laws and policies the government is introducing to protect pets
The ban on cruel collars comes weeks after the Conservatives launched a clampdown on puppy farms, and could be seen as a way to improve its reputation around animal welfare.
The Party’s 2017 manifesto included measures to have CCTV in slaughterhouses but it came in for criticism for failing to back an ivory ban and sticking to plans to hold a vote on bringing back foxhunting.
We looked at the animal and pet policies in the main Parties’ manifestos.
Guides to pet laws
It’s important for pet owners to keep up to date with changes to laws and understand how existing ones relate to their cats and dogs, and pet insurance. Some pet insurance exclusions may relate to breaking laws.