Campaign for ban on shock collars gathers support

SNP MSP’s call for UK-wide ban gains cross-party support and endorsement from animal welfare groups

THE SALE AND USE of shock collars and electronic ‘training devices’ which inflict pain or distress upon dogs should be banned in Scotland and throughout the UK, SNP MSP Ben Macpherson has argued.

The MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith lodged a motion with the Scottish Parliament on 22 January, calling on the Scottish Government to use its devolved powers to ensure that the use of such devices is an offence, and further calling on the UK Government to ban its sale or supply, which it has so far failed to do.

The motion was supported not only by Macpherson’s SNP colleagues, but by Green MSPs such as Patrick Harvie, Alison Johnstone, John Finnie and Ross Greer.

The motion articulated the key points of Macpherson’s ongoing campaign, which has garnered support from animal welfare organisations including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Blue Cross, One Kind, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the Dogs Trust.

An estimate published by the Scotsman newspaper in November 2017 suggested that up to 500,000 people across the UK use the collars, which can provide shocks to the animals wearing them of up to 30 seconds.

“I don’t believe that dogs should have to suffer pain during training – it’s ineffective and cruel, and we should instead be encouraging more positive and humane training methods.” SNP MSP Ben Macpherson

According to a statement from Macpherson’s parliamentary office, Macpherson has already held “constructive talks” with the Scottish Government on the issue.

Following the lodging of his motion, Macpherson commented: “There is growing public concern about the use of shock collars and electronic ‘training aids’ that can cause pain or distress to dogs. It’s a serious animal welfare issue and I’m calling for both governments to take swift action to prevent animal cruelty.

“I don’t believe that dogs should have to suffer pain during training – it’s ineffective and cruel, and we should instead be encouraging more positive and humane training methods.”

Macpherson went on to draw a distinction between “innocuous” electronic devices and those which inflict suffering on animals: “To be clear, I fully recognise that some specific devices, such as collars which only vibrate and cannot cause pain or distress, offer potential benefits in certain circumstances, such as when dealing with dogs suffering from hearing loss. Use of such innocuous devices could be allowed to continue – while the sale and use of harmful devices should be stopped.”

While Macpherson echoed long-standing calls from animal welfare advocates for the Scottish Government to take action, he reserved much condemnation for the UK Government: “I urge the Scottish Government to take the initiative and ensure that it is an offence in Scotland to cause pain or distress to dogs through the use of shock collars or electronic ‘training aids’; however, I must also stress that only the Tory Westminster government has the power to do the right thing and ban their sale across the UK.

“I must also stress that only the Tory Westminster government has the power to do the right thing and ban their sale across the UK.” SNP MSP Ben Macpherson

“It’s great to have One Kind, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, The Dogs Trust, the Kennel Club, Blue Cross and the SPCA backing this campaign – I’m very grateful for their support and pay tribute to all of their hard work on this issue over recent years.

“Scotland has proven itself to be a progressive and compassionate country and it’s right that we apply these principles to animal welfare - that’s why I encourage everyone to get behind my campaign, sign my petition, share it with your friends and contacts, and help protect dogs from these devices – shock collars are cruel and unnecessary and it is high time we banned them.”

Commenting further, SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: "As Scotland's animal welfare charity, the Scottish SPCA believes that any training or control device that can inflict pain on an animal, from which it has no means of escape, should not be used or offered for sale, therefore we are opposed to the sale and use of electric shock collars.

"We can see no reason why they should be allowed for sale to the public given that the Home Office banned their use by trained military and police personnel almost a decade ago." SPCA chief superintendant Mike Flynn

"We can see no reason why they should be allowed for sale to the public given that the Home Office banned their use by trained military and police personnel almost a decade ago."

Dee McIntosh, Director of Communications and External Affairs for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, said: “Battersea Dogs & Cats Home believes the use of electric shock collars is both unnecessary and harmful. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as reward-based training, are kinder and more effective ways of changing a dog's behaviour. Battersea cares for many challenging dogs and achieves incredible, lasting results without ever resorting to electric collars.

“The Welsh Government banned the use of shock and prong collars in 2010. Battersea would encourage the Scottish and UK Government to follow their example and also bring about a ban of these cruel and entirely unnecessary devices.”

Head of Public Affairs at Blue Cross Becky Thwaites added: “Blue Cross was pleased when back in late 2015 the Scottish Government launched a consultation on the issue of Electronic Shock Collars and has long been calling for a complete ban on the devices which we believe are cruel and unnecessary.”

“The advice from academia, dog behaviourists and trainers is clear – electrocuting dogs does not help train them.” Conservative MSP Maurice Golden

The Scottish Government has been under increasing pressure from animal welfare groups to institute a full ban on shock collars since the announcement on new regulations on the controversial devices last year, which stop short of fully outlawing them.

In November 2017, over 10,000 people signed a petition created by Conservative MSP Maurice Golden calling for the devices to be made illegal. Speaking at the time, Golden commented: “Electric shock collars are harmful and have no place in modern dog training. The advice from academia, dog behaviourists and trainers is clear – electrocuting dogs does not help train them.”

Picture courtesy of Sasha the Okay Photographer

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