Shock collars: Cruel devices which simply do not work
The Government has already committed to a ban on the barbaric use of shock collars in England – so why are the country's pets still waiting for action?
What do you think would be the most effective way to stop a dog from harassing livestock? Keeping the dog on a lead? A good training regime? Ensuring your dog can’t easily escape your property? For most dog owners, these would seem like pretty common-sense actions. What about administering painful electric shocks to your dog using a handheld remote? Three quarters of Brits told us these devices should be banned. You’ll have a hard time finding any animal charities that recommend shock collars, but their use on dogs or cats remains perfectly legal in England.
As a sector we were all thrilled when the Government announced a ban on the use of these devices. The Animal Welfare (Electronic Collars) (England) Regulations, when passed, are set to end the use of these cruel devices from February 2024. The regulations were laid in the House of Lords in April this year and we, organisations that train thousands of dogs each year using only positive methods with incredible results, expected swift progress. Unfortunately, we were wrong.
A date was set for a debate on 7th June 2023. It was then postponed with no new date set. With both Houses of Parliament now risen for Summer Recess, the debate won’t come before September at the earliest. We then face a busy party conference season and a King’s Speech in November. To put it simply, time is ticking away.
So, what’s the hold-up? We know that advocates of shock collars, though a small minority and a fringe group, have been vocal in their opposition to the ban. Some argue that shock collars are an effective deterrent against livestock worrying. But the argument doesn’t stack up.
The police have identified time and time again that most livestock worrying is done by animals that are not with their owner, but may live locally and have escaped their garden, likely without their owner’s knowledge. How is a shock collar meant to tackle this? Are owners meant to simply press the trigger just in case? As the timings of these incidents are by their nature unpredictable, is the dog meant to wear the collar permanently? If so, that isn’t training – and proponents of their use are failing to answer these questions.
We know that keeping dogs on a lead when near livestock is the safest and most effective way to keep both dog and livestock safe. Leads are a clear visual indication that a dog is under control. If an unaccompanied dog broke free from its owner’s property and began worrying livestock, a shock collar would be even less use as it would require the owner to operate a handheld remote. Keeping a dog supervised when in the garden would be a more effective approach.
What do experts say? Researchers from the University of Lincoln looked into these barbaric devices in 2020 and concluded that 'training dogs with electronic collars is no more effective than traditional training methods. They cause significant behavioural harm, without any obvious training benefit’. However you look at it, using electric shock collars on an animal is cruel and ineffective. We hope that the regulations will progress soon, because the nation’s pets can’t just keep on waiting.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.