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Assembly in pledge to ban shock collars
- but DEFRA awaits ‘further research’

THE USE of electric shock training collars for dogs is set to be banned in Wales, on the unanimous agreement of MPs sitting in the Welsh Assembly.

The Assembly’s Environment, Planning and Countryside Minister Carwyn Jones described the collars as 'totally barbaric' and said that it was his intent to ban their use when the new Animal Welfare Act came into force in March.

In contrast, a spokesperson from the Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs commented: ‘There are no current plans to ban the use of electronic training aids. We are aware of concerns among welfare groups about potential for misuse but equally aware of arguments that they have a place in training dogs where all other training methods have failed. The alternative might be worse - including possible euthanasia of the animal’.

Opponents of such devices claim that where a dog does not associate the pain with its own behaviour, their use can lead to further aggressive behaviour, especially if the dog links the shock to situations such as an approach by another dog.

The collars have two metal prongs that press against the dog's neck, sometimes causing deep wounds, through which an electric current passes to shock the animal for up to 12 seconds at a time. The collars are normally operated by remote control and can have a range of over half a mile.

Research has also shown that the use of electric stimuli to train animals has long-term negative effects on welfare and behaviour.

The Minister said: ‘If people keep dogs, they must expect to take the time to train the animal properly and not resort to a quick fix by the use of these collars.

‘Professional advice on reward-based training does not cost any more than using an electric collar. Using such devices also raises the question of a duty of care towards the animal, which is the core of the Animal Welfare Act.’

Regrettably, the Minister neglected to mention the prominent part played in the move to ban shock collars by the Kennel Club, following a visit by KC officials to the Welsh assembly last week to show first hand, the overwhelming power emitted by electric shock collars, hoping to get a significant part of the UK behind their campaign.

Once demonstrated, there was unanimous agreement amongst those met in the Welsh Assembly that the electric shock collar was not only painful but is also cruel and unnecessary. The Minister and Assembled Members were shocked by the information given by the Kennel Club on electric shock collars and their availability.

Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko commented: ‘The Minister’s announcement is a huge success in the KC campaign to completely ban the use of electric shock collars as training devices for companion animals, and we hope that this will help achieve a nationwide ban on these and other electronic training devices.’

Paramount to the Kennel Club is the welfare of dogs, so naturally the KC are running this campaign against all electronic training devices which instil fear and pain, and are getting public and political support to achieve this. The KC hopes this will set the precedent for other parts of the UK to put in place a ban.

The Animal Welfare Act received Royal Assent on 8 November and is on course in Wales to be commenced by the end of March 2007. Section 12 of the Act will allow the Welsh Assembly to make such legislation, as the Act is ‘enabling legislation’, which allows secondary legislation to be enacted inn its wake

Section 9(2) of the Animal Welfare Act explains that an animal's needs shall be taken to include ‘its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns’ and ‘its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease’

It is suggested that both these clauses would not allow an animal subjected to an electric shock collar to be able to demonstrate this.

David Bowles, RSPCA Head of External Affairs welcomed the Assembly’s move, but again failed to recognise the part played by the KC and the ‘world of show dogs’ in the campaign.

‘We hope this wise, welfare-based decision from Wales will be replicated by the Government in England, and that a ban on electric shock collars for dogs can come into force in both countries without delay,’ said Mr Bowles.

‘Shock collars work by causing a dog pain, which the RSPCA and all animal welfare groups believe is completely unacceptable.’

‘Defra is aware of a number of scientific studies on these devices but Defra veterinarians and scientists are of the opinion that these studies are not sufficiently robust to underpin policy in this area. The Animal Welfare Act gives the Secretary of State/National Assembly for Wales power to ban any equipment if more robust scientific evidence that it has harmful effect on animals' welfare found in future.

‘Defra accepted recommendations from the House of Commons Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) who called for research about these devices to be undertaken as soon as possible, and has made this a priority. An open competition call inviting bids for research on the effect of electronic pet training aids on the welfare of dogs - specifically use of static pulse training systems and citronella sprays - was made in Defra's Annual Research Requirements Document in 2005. A single proposal was received in response to the call. Following internal and external peer review it was decided that the proposal did not satisfactorily meet the advertised requirements and it was therefore rejected.

‘Defra re-considered its position and advertised a revised research call in July 2006. This took the form of a Limited Tender Call for proposals to assess the effect of electronic pet training aids (excluding electronic dog fences), specifically static pulse, anti-bark, and inert gas training systems, on the welfare of dogs. The call encourages an epidemiological approach i.e. based on observation of collars already in use. We have received one proposal in response to the call (which has now closed). The proposal will be assessed both internally and externally so that a decision can be made as to whether or not to take the study forward. If the application is successful, we would expect work to begin in April 2007.

‘Defra has asked the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC), independent advisory body to the Government on companion animal welfare matters, to undertake an independent study of available evidence in this area. In response CAWC has recently set up an independent working party, to help inform Defra policy and complement any research commissioned. All research
into these areas commissioned by the Government will be put into the public

Political Progress To Ban Electric Shock Collars In England

Meanwhile, pace is gathering in the world of politics for a ban on electric shock collars in England.
Labour MP for Portsmouth North, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, has readily taken up the opportunity to propose a ban on electric shock training devices since recently being approached by the Kennel Club. By tabling it in a Private Member’s Bill in the Westminster parliament, it has now been put high on the political agenda for this Parliamentary session.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry’s decision to introduce the subject of the cruelty of electric shock collars and propose it in a Private Member’s Bill entitled ‘Electric Shock Training Devices Bill’ is a milestone in the campaign. Each year a ballot is held at the start of the session and the twenty MPs whose names come out top are allowed to introduce legislation on a subject of their choice. Her support is invaluable to the campaign.

Ms McCarthy-Fry commented: ‘I have a seven year old dog called Dudley. He is a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Lancashire Heeler. I cannot imagine using an electric shock collar on him. These collars are barbaric; they train dogs to respond out of fear rather than a natural willingness to behave and are entirely unnecessary. Considering the vast array of positive training methods that exist, it seems to me that there is absolutely no need to use an electric shock collar and I hope Members of Parliament on all sides will support my Bill and introduce a ban.’

The Kennel Club is now eagerly awaiting the outcome of the Private Member’s Bill. This political positioning will give the proposal for a ban the best chance of gaining further strong cross party support, increasing its chance of becoming law.

Further strengthening the Bill’s popularity and attention is the co-sponsorship of other MPs including Conservative MPs - Tony Baldry MP for Banbury, Roger Gale MP for North Thanet, and John Whittingdale MP for Maldon & Chelmsford East as well as Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, Mike Hancock

Roger Gale MP said: ‘The Kennel Club demonstrated the electric shock collar training device at the Conservative Party Conference and it brought it home to me and my parliamentary colleagues who experienced its power, just how unpleasant these things really are.’

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary added: ‘The Kennel Club is delighted that Sarah McCarthy-Fry has agreed to put down her Bill on electric shock training devices and that this has cross party support. We hope that this will put further pressure on DEFRA to completely ban the sale and use of these cruel training devices.’