The Tory government still allows cruel electric shock collars to be used in England and sold anywhere in the UK, writes Tommy Sheppard.
Who, I wonder, first came up with the idea of putting a metal collar round a dog’s neck and giving them electric shocks to modify their behaviour.
Was it a sadist who gets their kicks from hurting animals or a misguided behavioural scientist with a fetish for gadgets?
Either way, I’m glad we’re finally wising up and saying no to a device which causes distress and suffering for no good reason. They don’t even work.
Anyone who has trained a puppy knows the way to get him or her to do what you want is to reward them each time the action is performed. This is far more effective and actually gets the puppy to do something positive rather than refrain from doing something for fear of being hurt. That’s why 91 per cent of trainers favour a ban on electric shock collars. The collars are marketed as harmless but they train dogs through fear and pain, rather than a natural willingness to obey. They cause anxiety-related behaviours, re-directed aggression and, of course, physical pain to dogs. Extensive research has proved that training a dog with a shock collar is harmful and unnecessary.
So hats off to the Scottish Government on their decision to ban them last week. As Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham 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.”
This follows a campaign by my colleague Ben Macpherson MSP – backed by pet owners, vets and animal welfare campaigners throughout the country. Use of these devices will now be an offence under Article 38 of the Animal Health and Welfare Scotland Act (2006). I’m especially pleased that Scottish Government Ministers resisted red herrings and attempts to create loopholes allowing the use of electric shock training in some instances. These would only have been used to frustrate and circumvent the Government’s intentions – a ban is the only way to guarantee effective action. This decision brings Scotland into line with Wales – leaving England the only part of Britain where the use of electric shock training will be allowed. But unfortunately that’s not the whole story. As with so many things under our devolution settlement the Scottish Government is acting with one hand tied behind its back. So, while the Scottish Government can ban the use of these devices, consumer protection is a matter for Westminster and so they cannot ban their sale.
That’s why the SNP are now taking the fight to Westminster. I asked the UK Government Minister to confirm their policy and on Monday he confirmed they aren’t planning a ban. So now we have a fight on our hands and I look forward to working with animal welfare campaigners to persuade him to change his mind.
You can sign the public petition in my office (and those of Deidre Brock MP and Ben Macpherson MSP) and it’ll be going live online shortly – another hindrance of Westminster that it takes a week for them to approve an online petition. There is overwhelming public support for a ban and MPs of all parties will be working together to achieve one. It seems now only English Tory Minsters need to be convinced. Now I know that there will be those who’ll tell me I should be concentrating on how people are mistreated rather than animals. But I can do both. And I believe that the way we treat animals who share this planet with us reflects what sort of people we are.