Report on Companion Animal Welfare: The use of E-Collars.
The use of electronic dog collars of any type is becoming more popular worldwide according to BritishDog.net, a seller. According to Britishdog in 1998; 300,000 remote training collars, 600,000+ containment systems and 600,000 bark collars were sold worldwide. General consensus through sources such as the Daily Mail newspaper, Association of Pet Behaviour Councillors (APBC) and Britishdog.net believe that this is due to their affordability along with owners finding them safe, effective and a ‘quick fix’ to unwanted behaviours. However, the practice of using these shock collars (containment systems must use a collar or other device attached to the animal in order to ‘shock’) is a controversial one. As they become more popular, the less welfare organisations and individuals agree with them. The evidence of this is seen in Wales with a complete ban; enforced as of March 2010. The Welsh Assembly states: ‘[We] take animal welfare very seriously and I’m pleased that, as a government, we are taking a proactive approach to promoting the welfare of animals by banning the use of such electronic training devices in Wales’ [Anon 3]. It’s also resulting from lobbying by organisations such as the Kennel Club. The Kennel Club has a whole campaign against the use of e-collars, including a video sourced on YouTube showing a man unwittingly shocking himself as a joke with an e-collar, realising how strong they are. The Kennel Club, among many other animal organisations continue to lobby for an outright ban on e-collars across the UK. Not everyone agrees with the ban. An article from Pet Products Marketing [Anon 2] states: “The Welsh Assembly Government has a duty under the Animal Welfare Act to promote the welfare of animals. By taking the proposed action they are condemning many more pets to death and injury”. The article goes on to state ‘a survey completed by the Electric Collar Manufacturers Association (ECMA) with the results stating that 70% of owners that use e-collars believe the use has saved their pets lives at some point’. Also, an article in the Daily Mail predicts animal shelters becoming inundated with unruly dogs without the use of e-collars. My Dog Magazine [Anon 1] article has suggested passing a UK government regulation similar to Victoria (Australia) and their Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Regulations 2008 which mostly set out guidelines for how and when the shock collars can be used. As a compromise, the shock collar is classified under the regulations as those that are electric, not citronella shock collars for example. The regulations also set out a number of conditions for authorised collars and their use. As a result of this controversy, there has been much research into the pros and cons of e-collars, whether they actually do the required job compared to other methods and also the actual effect of the e-collars on the animals, cats and dogs, mainly from a welfare prospective investigating if they cause pain or just annoyance. Research by Schilder, M and Borg, J (2003) has found that shocks received by dogs (German Shepherds) during training were not only unpleasant but painful and even frightening for the animals. As such, using one for training over a long period of time potentially affects welfare more. The paper gives examples of the animal
associating the shocks with the trainer or with a certain command given and as a result remains stressed even while not on the training grounds. The purpose of this paper was to observe the initial behavioural responses elicited by the reception of the shock and so determine whether it is possible to distinguish what dogs are trained by shock collars and those that are not by observing behaviour. The difference in behaviours discovered shows that potentially there is a welfare issue in that many of the behavioural responses to being shocked shows correlation to behaviour linked with fear, pain and/or...
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