Holyrood asked to ban electric shock dog collars

THE use of electric shock collars for dogs which inflict deliberate pain on the animals is on the ­increase, campaigners warned yesterday.

The SNP's John Mason MSP signs a pledge in favour of banning the shock collars. Picture: Peter Devlin

Animal welfare campaigner Siobhan Garrahy has lodged a petition at Holyrood calling on MSPs to urge the Scottish Government to outlaw the collars, which critics say are cruel and unnecessary.

To date Scottish ministers have repeatedly resisted calls to follow the example of the Welsh Assembly, which outlawed the use of the devices in 2010, and ban the collars.

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There are an estimated 50,000 shock collars in use in Scotland, Ms Garrahy told Holyrood’s public petitions committee yesterday. MSPs were also urged to back a cap on the collars as a first step towards ending the use of them by Claire Staines, a dog trainer and behaviourist.

She said: “From a professional point of view I’m seeing an increase in the use of them for various different reasons and I don’t know why. The thing that I would like to do is try and put a cap on that so that they don’t become more popular.

“As it stands just now it’s still relatively small numbers in the grand scale of things, but what we do want to do is just get the message out to dog owners that these are inhumane, they are painful, their very design is to be aversive and there is an alternative.”

Ms Garrahy said the use of the collars is poorly regulated and warned that the devices could be increasingly misused to inflict serious harm on animals.

She said: “We believe that electric shock collars don’t have the governance they should have, there’s very poor legislation for them.

“They cause psychological distress, severe anxiety, emotional harm and displaced aggression, and there is an alternative with positive reinforcement and appropriate training that doesn’t deliver via cruel methods.

“There are several dangers with electric shock collars, some of which are that the remote collars or the shock collars can fall into the hands of children who find amusement in shocking pets for no reason because they’re too young to know ­better.

“There’s also the danger of the collars being misused by cruel people who take pleasure in hurting animals.

“The collars have been known to cause burns on pets and severe disfigurement, and shock collars can be misused by putting them on other animals.”

Holyrood’s public petitions committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government to clarify its position on the issue.

While use of the devices has been outlawed in Wales, they are still legal in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Independent MSP John Wilson, a member of the public petitions committee, backing a change in the law, said: “There seems to be a clear indication from Wales that a ban is the right way to go and I’d hope that there will now be a rethink from the Scottish government.”

The Scottish Government has refused to give any commitment to considering a ban on the devices and previously stated it was a “very sensitive and controversial issue” with arguments for and against.