The decision not to ban shock collars, allowing their use and sale, is only the latest of a series of back-and-forth decisions over animal welfare in this past year.

In October 2016, the decision to entirely ban tail docking was reversed, allowing docking for some working dogs deemed to be at risk of injury, such as spaniels and other gun dog types. The decision was taken despite the concerns of animal welfare charities, such as Dogs Trust, and the British Veterinary Association. Better news came from Scotland in January 2017, when plans for Scotland’s first industrial puppy farm in East Ayrshire were rejected, following an intense campaign against it.

Even better news came last September, when the Scottish Government announced the intention of bringing up the limit of prison sentences for animal cruelty up to five years – weeks before Environment Secretary Michael Gove pledged the same for England and Wales. The decision makes the refusal to ban the use and sale of electric collars even more incomprehensible: isn’t shocking your dog an act of cruelty? And yet, it will be allowed under certain circumstances, according to a note from the Kennel Club.

The Kennel Club believes a dog should not be punished with electric shocks or any other painful treatment simply because their owner did not find out how much training or exercise their dog would need before buying or adopting their pet

“Despite the huge volume of evidence reinforcing the need for a ban on electric shock collars and support for the campaign across the welfare and veterinary sectors, the Scottish Government has informed the Kennel Club of its intent to merely regulate the sale and use of electric training devices rather than implementing a ban,” a Kennel Club statement reads. “The proposed regulations would include a new qualification for up to 100 dog trainers across the country to enable them to promote and use shock collars on dogs.

“During the recent meeting it was suggested by one attendee that shock collars could be used by owners who had chosen an unsuitable breed and were consequently struggling to handle their dog and were unable or unwilling to commit to other more positive training methods. This reasoning goes directly against the advice of the Kennel Club and other welfare organisations who all advise prospective dog owners to thoroughly research breeds and only choose one that is suitable for the person’s lifestyle.

“The Kennel Club believes a dog should not be punished with electric shocks or any other painful treatment simply because their owner did not find out how much training or exercise their dog would need before buying or adopting their pet.”

The Kennel Club understands that the Scottish Government has been meeting with the Electric Shock Collars Manufacturers Association and dog trainers in Scotland who currently use shock collars, yet has not had any meetings with any of the professional dog training associations who oppose the use of electric training devices

The Kennel Club and Scottish Kennel Club are now urging dog lovers to step forward and get in touch with their MSP to protest the decision, and demand their support for a complete ban of these devices. 

“The Kennel Club understands that the Scottish Government has been meeting with the Electric Shock Collars Manufacturers Association and dog trainers in Scotland who currently use shock collars, yet has not had any meetings with any of the professional dog training associations who oppose the use of electric training devices,” the press release adds.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said, “It is extremely disappointing that despite the large amount of scientific evidence proving that electric shock collars are a cruel training method for dogs, the Scottish Government has decided to pursue a costly route to regulate shock collars rather than implement an outright ban.

“The Kennel Club has grave concerns that if the government supports a formal training qualification which allows electronic training devices, it will legitimise the use of shock collars and gaining the qualification may be viewed as an aspirational target for dog trainers. This governmental approval would also send a message to the people of Scotland that using these painful devices is an acceptable way to attempt to train a dog, when there is a wealth of evidence proving to the contrary.

“The Kennel Club also questions whether developing a qualification for fewer than a hundred dog trainers is an appropriate use of resources and tax payers’ money when the government could instead develop a qualification in positive training methods suitable for all dog trainers, the vast majority of whom would never use an electric shock collar.”

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

Maurice Golden MSP, who supported the campaign to have electric shock collars banned, added, “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. Despite this, the Scottish Government plans to create a new regulatory regime to allow continued use of these harmful devices. Sadly, the proposed regulatory regime will only create unnecessary bureaucracy and do little to prevent dogs from being harmed.

“The simplest solutions are often the best. That is why I’m calling on the Scottish Government to ban electric shock collars once and for all. It’s time to do more to protect dog welfare in Scotland.”

Take action

A petition has since been started to ask the Scottish Government to reconsider the decision and outright ban the use and sale of electric collars in Scotland. You can sign it here.

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