CONTROVERSIAL electric “shock” collars for dogs could be banned in Scotland amid complaints from animal welfare groups that they cause needless pain and suffering.
The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to consult on the use of the devices which could result in stricter controls or an “outright ban”.
The collars, already banned in Wales, are operated by remote control and deliver a shock to pets as punishment for bad behaviour.
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said yesterday he has been urged to ban the collars due to “valid concerns” about their potential misuse.
But he added: “Equally, I have been made aware of numerous situations where these training aids, when used properly, have greatly benefited animal welfare.
“That is why I will publish a further consultation within the next few months. This will take into account recent developments in collar technology, welfare research and mechanisms to mitigate the risks of collar use.
“The options on the table will include a ban or controls on the type of collars that may be used and how they may be used.”
He pointed to other parts of the world, such as New Zealand and Australia, where the use of the collars is a success with proper controls in place.
Mr Lochhead added: “Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and we want to make sure animals benefit from the highest possible standards of animal welfare. The use of electronic training collars is clearly an issue that many people feel strongly about, with advocates on both sides of the debate citing animal welfare as their main driver.”
Animal protection charity OneKind is opposed to the use of e-collars along with other animal welfare organisations including the Kennel Club, the Scottish SPCA, the RSPCA, the Dogs Trust, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Blue Cross.
They point to studies which have found “negative welfare impacts” on dogs trained using the collars, even when used by a trained professional.
Earlier this year MSP Dennis Robertson, who uses a guide dog, compared the use of the shock collars to hitting a child.
Mr Robertson, Holyrood’s only blind MSP, called for an outright ban and said that “any deliberate infliction of pain on an animal is abhorrent”.
“We cannot see any place for negative and aversive methods when positive, reward-based training is available,” Libby Anderson of OneKind said earlier this year.
MSPs across the party spectrum backed calls for a ban when the issue was debated in the Scottish Parliament earlier this year. Nationalist backbencher Christine Grahame revealed she had experienced a shock from the one of the collars on her wrist and branded it “extremely painful”.