We fully support a complete ban on the use and sale of electric shock collars. We believe that these devices cause unnecessary pain and suffering for dogs, and a total ban on their use is well overdue.
What are electric shock collars?
Electric shock collars are devices that are sometimes used as a training method to control behaviour or punish a dog for unwanted behaviour. The device delivers an electric or static shock to the dog’s neck via a remote control or an automatic trigger.
The use and sale of electric shock collars is currently not prohibited in England, despite the UK Government previously announcing their intention to bring forward a legislative ban.
Electric shock collars have been banned in Wales since 2010 under The Animal Welfare (Electronic Collars) (Wales) Regulations 2010. Under the Regulations, anyone found guilty of using electronic shock collars on a dog or cat is liable to up to a year in prison and/or a fine.
Electric shock collars are currently legal in Scotland. However, in 2018, the Scottish Government published guidance advising against the use of these devices and other aversive training methods. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that this guidance has not been effective in stopping the use of these devices across the nation.
There are currently no legal restrictions on the use or sale of shock collars in Northern Ireland.
Research funded by DEFRA in 2014 demonstrated that shock collars can have a detrimental effect on the welfare of dogs by causing them unnecessary harm and suffering. More recent studies have reached similar conclusions, highlighting that usage of the device poses a risk to dog welfare and causes unnecessary suffering, as well as indicating that there is little evidence of improved behavioural outcomes. Research has shown that 25% of dogs trained with electric shock collars showed signs of stress in comparison to less than 5% of dogs trained without the device.
It is often claimed that electric shock collars are effective in preventing dogs from chasing livestock. However, research demonstrates that use of an electronic collar does not create a greater deterrent for disobedience, nor does it result in better learning outcomes.
Concerns have also been raised about the potential for owners and electric shock collar users to misuse or abuse the devices. A review of evidence commissioned by the Welsh Government demonstrated that owners do not typically read the manufacturers’ instructions prior to use and that advice on correct usage is not consistently followed. We believe that this raises serious concerns about inconsistent use and potential misuse of the devices.
The Kennel Club’s view
We fully support a total ban on the use and sale of electric shock collars. As such, we have extensively lobbied – and continue to lobby – the relevant authorities to prohibit shock collars from being used to train dogs.
We are firmly against the use of any aversive training devices. Instead, we recommend that pet owners and trainers use positive, rewards-based tools and methods when training their dog. Rewards-based training methods are proven to be effective and also do not compromise animal health or welfare. We recommend that dog owners find out more about The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme and/or find a Kennel Club accredited instructor before embarking on their training journey.
Email your local MP - find yours over on the UK parliament website.
If emailing in please include your name and postal address at the end of your email.
You can also tweet: @DefraGovUK when will you #BanShockCollars
Here is a template letter you can use:
Dear (your MP),
Re: The Animal Welfare (electronic collars) (England) Regulations 2023
As a dog owner I’m deeply saddened to learn that as yet, almost six months after Regulations were laid, no date has been set for the final stage of the law to be passed through Parliament which would ban the use of remote-controlled electric shock collars. The Regulations have been approved by Defra and have passed the Lords Stages but have one final stage to complete before they can be enacted and no time is being made available for this.
Electric shock collars work by giving electric shocks to dogs via metal conductors that contact the neck, with up to 6,000 volts emitted for up to 11 seconds at a time and with a range of up to two miles, meaning dogs could be completely out of sight when receiving the stimulus. This is tantamount to animal cruelty and would deeply damage the important connection that owners have with their pets.
Evidence shows that dogs respond well to reward-based training, which helps to build the human-animal bond between dog and owner and helps build confidence. Owners that train using positive rewards report fewer behavioural problems. Please see the research paper China, L, Mills, DS Cooper, JJ (July 2020) ‘Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Remote Electronic Collars vs. a Focus on Positive Reinforcement Frontiers in Veterinary Science’.
I would urge the Government to ban these devices as a priority and during this Parliamentary session in order that the relevant legislation comes into force in February as intended. It’s concerning that a commitment to banning them has been made and that if this is not delivered, it could signal that training dogs through pain and fear is somehow acceptable.
As a constituent, I would be grateful if you could raise this matter with the Leader of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt.