Leading dog welfare and veterinary charities call for an end to cruel Electric Shock Collars in England

Today (Monday 28 November), representatives from The Kennel Club, Dogs Trust, RSPCA, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, the British Veterinary Association and Blue Cross will join MPs at an event in Westminster to call on the Government to ban the use of Electric Shock Collars (ESC) in England as has been promised since 2018.

Evidence presented to governments across the UK has led to collars administering electric shocks being banned in Wales and condemned in Scottish guidance. In 2018, the Westminster Government committed to introducing a ban when parliamentary time allowed, but despite this, it is still legal to use them in England.

ESCs are used to train dogs by punishing unwanted behaviours through the application of a shock to the dog’s neck. However, studies have shown that these devices have a serious impact on the welfare of dogs, including behavioural and physiological signs of distress. Robust research evidence shows that such techniques are not needed, with positive reinforcement being more effective at changing behaviour.

To have an effect, the shock administered by ESCs needs to be strong enough for the dog to feel pain and be fearful of experiencing that pain again. It also requires the dog to associate the shock with their undesirable action. Creating fear in this way risks numerous negative consequences for the dog and owner:

  • Dogs may associate the pain with other things in their environment, such as other dogs or people, and learn to avoid or be aggressive towards these.
  • Dogs may not associate the shock with anything and become anxious about the wider situation where the collar is used. They may avoid going for walks at all, be very inactive on walks, or stick close to their owner through anxiety.
  • Dogs can become aggressive towards, or avoidant of, their owners either in immediate response to the pain, or to avoid further shocks (for example when the collar is put on).
  • Where the shock is used in situations where dogs are already anxious (e.g. for barking or lunging), this is likely to increase anxiety, potentially leading to more extreme or different undesired behaviours.
  • Collar use can cause physical injury to the dog. 

Justin Tomlinson MP said:

“I am honoured to support this coalition of animal welfare charities in the fight to ban electric shock collars. For several years we have been calling on the Government to carry out their commitment and bring forward plans to ban electric shock collars, and I hope that this event shows the breadth of support we have in carrying out this mission. 

“Wide-ranging evidence proves that not only do they harm our four-legged friends, but shock collars fundamentally also do not fix the root cause of ‘undesirable’ behaviour and can often cause more harm than good. That’s why I am backing the call to ban these cruel instruments without further delays.”

Mark Beazley, Chief Executive at The Kennel Club said:

“The Kennel Club has long campaigned for a ban on electric shock collars and we are so pleased to be welcoming MPs to this event to demonstrate, alongside our fellow animal welfare charities, a shared commitment to ensuring this is implemented.

“In August 2018, the then Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, announced electric shock collars would be banned, describing the collars as punitive and harmful. It is time for the Government to come good on this promise and introduce regulations to ban these dangerous and unnecessary devices imminently.”

Dr Rachel Casey, PhD FRCVS, RCVS Specialist in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine and Director of Canine Behaviour & Research at Dogs Trust, says:

“It is both unnecessary and cruel to use these collars on dogs. They are painful and have a serious negative impact on dogs’ wellbeing. Worse still, they can be a mechanism for abuse if used in anger.

“I will never forget coming across a little terrier when out on a walk, with no owner in sight. He was crouched down, shaking and screaming repeatedly as his e-collar was activated again and again.

“These devices have no place in modern dog training. We know that positive reward-based methods are at least as effective. We know that using e-collars impacts on dog welfare and risks causing further behaviour problems. It is past time for a ban.”

“Whilst Wales and Scotland have made moves to ban the use of electric shock collars, England is dragging its heels. Westminster has the power to ban the use of them, so we have joined forces with colleagues from across the animal welfare sector to call for a long overdue ban on these cruel devices across the whole of the UK.”