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MSP speaks out in favour of electric collar ban


A SCOTTISH Parliamentarian has spoken out in his opposition to the use of electric shock training collars for dogs.

Dr Bill Wilson, MSP for the West of Scotland region, last week announced his support of a Parliamentary Motion which condemned electric training devices as ‘cruel and unnecessary’.
Dr Wilson said that even if he were convinced of the efficacy of such devices in expert hands, the risk of them being used inappropriately was too great. Dr Wilson commented: ‘Once such things are out there I can see them falling into the wrong hands. Guns, knives and fireworks already hurt and injure too many people and animals. Why add another potential weapon to the list? But, setting aside the issue of warped individuals who would use them deliberately as implements of torture, I also have serious concerns about how even well-meaning people might inadvertently misuse them.’

Problems

Dr Wilson elaborated, ‘I have spoken to a vet who tells me that one of the most frustrating areas he has had to deal with is that of pets with behavioural problems. These are often hard to put right, he says, not because of any difficulty in the theoretical understanding of the behaviour or of how to modify it, but because, no matter how often things are explained to owners, many fail to follow advice accurately. His opinion was that animals do not necessarily look at cause and effect the way we do, and so slight problems with timing, for example, might exacerbate, rather than help, the behaviour an electric device is supposed to improve, and cause great distress and confusion.

‘Imagine what could happen if an owner triggered a shock when a dog was in the presence of a small child: the dog might develop fear-related aggression towards children!

‘The famous Milgram experiment showed that many apparently normal people were prepared to inflict painful and possibly lethal electric shocks on others, as long as an authority figure assured them that this was acceptable. The interest of companies manufacturing shock devices will lie in promoting their use and allaying people’s fears. There is surely too much room for error here.’
Dr Wilson concluded his remarks by saying, ‘The Parliamentary Motion points out there are effective positive training methods for dogs. There is no need for shock devices.’
Dr Bill Wilson may be contacted by e-mail: Bill.Wilson.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Earlier this week the Electric Collar Manufacturers’ Association welcomed the announcement by Defra of the start of their scientific investigation into the welfare implications of electronic training collars.

‘We are sure that this research will finally lay to rest the tabloid scare stories and urban myths that the Kennel Club and others have been circulating about the training collars’, said their press release. ‘Over three hundred thousand owners of electronic training collars in the UK know that training collars save lives.

Decisions

‘The start of the research at a time when departmental consultations are getting under way in Edinburgh and Cardiff signals the importance of ensuring that all policy decisions are based on sound scientific knowledge and not on emotional, tabloid style campaigns. It is a widely recognised principle that government should be based on sound science and where that science does not exist the government can commission the necessary research as it has done in this case, at a cost of £469,000.

‘Although this research focuses on England rather than Wales or Scotland, it is clear that the scientific conclusions it reaches will be applicable in all parts of the United Kingdom.
‘We note with approval that the field research will be conducted in the proper context of training and this is the correct approach as these are training products.’

Duncan McNair, of ECMA said, ‘This is good news for the hundreds of thousands of collar owners who have peace of mind and safer, happier pets since they have had training collars.’