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Scotland bans shock collars

Issue: 02/02/2018

The Scottish Government have decided to ban electric shock collars.
Campaigners who have fought hard for the ban said they were 'over the moon' with the decision. They said it was 'fantastic' although they said they would continue to maintain pressure on the government to make sure that it will be a complete ban on all training devices.
Last November the Scottish Government refused to institute a ban but instead said they would licence shock collars and a qualification would be required for any dog trainer who wanted to promote and use shock collars.
It seems that the pressure exerted by campaigners, that included a petition with nearly 20,000 signatures and a large amount of letters and e-mails sent to MSPs, forced the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, to perform a U-turn in the government's position.
Ms Cunnigham said she made the decision after listening to the concerns raised, particularly over the ready availability on the internet of cheap devices that can be bought by anyone and deliver painful electric shocks.


She said, 'Causing pain to dogs by inappropriate training methods is clearly completely unacceptable and I want there to be no doubt that painful or unpleasant training for dogs will not be tolerated'.
Leading the campaign to ban the devices was Conservative MSP Maurice Golden. Alongside the SNP's Ben Macpherson he continued to apply pressure on the government to introduce a ban. As we reported in last week's issue he had called a debate last Thursday on the issue. The day before the debate took place the Scottish Government announced that it was going to introduce a ban.
He said, 'Great news - the Scottish Government has heard your voices and announced a ban on electric shock collars! Thank you all so much for your help - signing the petition and raising awareness has made all the difference! I will continue to press the Scottish Government to ensure clear and quick implementation. For further updates, please like my page on Facebook! Thanks again.'
Martha Brindley, who was the KCAI Trainer of the Year last year, was one of the many people who worked hard to bring about a ban.
She told OUR DOGS, 'This is a fantastic victory. We had support from around the world with messages of support from Canada, Australia and South Africa. The Government has listened to the people and it shows the power of public voice.


'I did not think that this would happen. All the pressure over the past months has done it. They have been faced with a barrage of e-mails. This is a victory for dog lovers everywhere.'
The Kennel Club, along with the Scottish Kennel Club, has lobbied for the ban in Scotland. They welcomed the announcement. The KC, alongside other welfare, veterinary and behaviour organisations, had lobbied the Scottish Government to bring in a ban for some time.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said. 'It is a huge relief to know that the Minister has taken on board the advice of leading academics, vets, behaviourists and welfare organisations and will ban the use of shock collars in Scotland. This sends the clearest possible message to dog owners that, far from being a harmless quick fix training solution, shock collars cause long term physical and psychological harm to dogs and that training them in this manner is unacceptable.
'We would be delighted to work with the Minister to ensure a ban is introduced at the earliest opportunity and are grateful to the many MSPs from all parties who have worked tirelessly to support our campaign, including Maurice Golden, Ben Macpherson, Christine Grahame and Colin Smyth. It is critical now that Westminster government does the right thing for dog welfare and follows Scotland's ban with a ban of its own on the sale and use of electric shock collars.'
The debate still went ahead on Thursday and Mr Golden said, 'Although yesterday's announcement is welcome, we still need clarity on whether it is a complete ban that applies to all harmful training devices. For example, it has been argued that devices with varying settings might be treated differently.
'There must be no attempt to use the consultation process to water down the ban with the arguments that we sometimes hear about, for example, shock collars being necessary for deaf dogs when, in fact, non-shock vibrating collars are a viable alternative.
'Another significant point is that we need clarity on the legal aspect of the ban—that is, on how the courts will enforce it.
'Let us remember why banning the devices is so important: they are harmful, and they have no place in dog training. The premise is very simple. Electric shock collars and other electric pulse training aids work by delivering a shock to a dog with the intention of ensuring that it associates that shock with a specific behaviour and is thereby deterred from repeating that behaviour. It sounds so reasonable, but if we strip away the polite-sounding description, we are left with the fact that the devices electrocute dogs. That is not right and it is not fair.'
Ms Cunnigham explained the change of heart by the government, 'The continuing concern about that proposed approach has led me to review the proposals. That is why I have decided not to pursue the initial plan to explore a way of approving trainers to allow the continued use of the collars in targeted circumstances. I know that that will disappoint those owners who genuinely believe that their animals have benefited from the collars and those trainers who have been engaging constructively with officials.

Not acceptable

'I have therefore asked officials to prepare clear Scottish Government guidance, reiterating that any physical punishment of dogs that causes unnecessary suffering is not acceptable in Scotland and is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. That includes the use of electronic collars that administer an electric shock, anti-bark collars and any device that squirts noxious oils or other chemicals or substances into a dog's face or other part of its anatomy.
'The guidance will be issued under section 38 of the 2006 act and will supplement the existing Scottish "Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs". Draft guidance is already on the Scottish Government website and I recommend that members seek it out. The guidance will make clear that causing unnecessary suffering by the use of such devices is an offence. Together with recommendations in the current code of practice, courts may take into account compliance, or non-compliance, with the proposed guidance in establishing liability in a prosecution.'
The British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has come out to say that a ban will put the lives of dogs at risk. They believe that used properly electric shock collars are, 'an effective method for addressing serious problem behaviours in dogs which may otherwise be destroyed.'
BASC Scotland director Dr Colin Shedden said: 'BASC and many other organisations and individuals made the case that the use of such remote training devices had been incredibly helpful in addressing problematic behaviour, such as sheep worrying, in a small number of dogs. 
'Without the restricted but effective use of these devices, many otherwise well-behaved family pets and working dogs would probably have had to be put down.'
Now that Shock collars will be banned in Scotland and Wales the pressure will now be on the authorities in England to follow suit. The Welsh banned the controversial devices back in 2010 and the successful Scottish campaigners have said they are willing to assist anyone who wants to start a similar campaign in England.

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