MSPs pledge support to ban electric shock collars

Organisations and MSPs unite to call on Scottish Government to ban use of electric shock collars following guidance failure.

  • Shock collars can continuously shock a dog for 11 terrifying second
  • Scotland avoiding introducing a ban, instead issuing guidance about their use

Scotland and the UK’s largest dog welfare organisations and positive trainers came together with MSPs on Wednesday 16th January to urge the Scottish Government to ban the use of electric shock collars and other aversive training devices.

Maurice Golden MSP for West Scotland hosted a drop-in event at the Scottish Parliament, allowing MSPs to pledge their support to help encourage a ban on the use of these devices a year after the Scottish Government announced it would ban them, but instead only issued guidance on their use.

84% of people know that shock collars cause a dog pain1, but the sad reality is that they are still readily available to buy at the click of a button. These torturous devices can send between 100 to 6000 Volts2 to a dog’s neck, and have the capacity to continuously shock a dog for up to 11 terrifying seconds at a time. Research shows that physical effects can include yelping, squealing, crouching, and physiological signs of distress in direct response to an electric shock3,4. It’s not just shock collars – spray and sonic collars are also widely for sale.

What is an electronic shock collar?

  • Electronic shock collars are devices used to remotely or automatically deliver a shock to the wearer via metal contacts with the neck, and are used by some people to try and correct problem behaviour in their dogs.

Whilst the use of electronic shock collars is banned in Wales, and Westminster has confirmed it will introduce a ban on the use of these cruel devices in England, Scotland continues to avoid introducing a ban. 

Maurice Golden MSP says, 

“Over 20,000 people signed my petition to ban these harmful devices which cause so much harm to dogs. 

“That is why it is hugely disappointing that the Government have completely failed to deliver on their promise to ban these harmful devices. 

“This is an issue that cannot be kicked into the long grass, the Government must act urgently and outline plans that will see electric shock collars for dogs banned once and for all.” 

Rachel Casey Director of Canine Behaviour and Research at Dogs Trust explains, 

“We are disappointed that despite previously committing to effectively ban the use of electronic and other aversive training devices, a year later the Scottish Government has only issued guidance about their use. This means that Scotland’s pets are not protected from the negative impacts of using these cruel devices. 

“This type of device is not only painful for a dog, it can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. As well as distress at the time of use, dogs can develop anxiety and other problem behaviours as a longer term consequence. We know from our Dog School classes that positive reinforcement training can give both dogs and their owners the skills they need to understand each other and build a rewarding life-long relationship.” 

Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home Director of Operations and Deputy to the CEO comments, 

“Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home does not feel there is a place in today’s Scotland for the use of shock collars. This cruel and unnecessary practice has, for too long, caused pain and suffering to dogs across the country on a daily basis. We strongly believe that an outright ban on the use of shock collars is the only outcome that will ensure dogs are protected from the fear and misery these collars bring.” 

Bob Elliot, OneKind Director adds, 

“Electric shock collars are cruel and unnecessary, and we believe it’s time for the Scottish Government to follow Wales by introducing a real ban on the use of shock collars to protect dogs from pain and suffering caused by their use. Not only are these collars cruel, but aversive training is ineffective which is why 91% of the dog trainers surveyed by OneKind in 2016 supported a shock collar ban.” 

Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs at Blue Cross comments, 

“Electric shock collars are a serious animal welfare issue. They are outdated, cruel and have no place in modern dog training. Blue Cross strongly believes that the only effective way to train a dog is through positive reinforcement. We were pleased to come together with colleagues from across the animal welfare sector in Scotland today to ask MSPs to push the Scottish Government to introduce a complete ban on electronic shock devices and other aversive training methods.” 

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary says, 

“We are disappointed that one year on from announcing that there would be an effective and prompt ban of electric shock collars in Scotland that such a ban has not come to fruition. Recently published guidance condoning shock collars is proving to be insufficient in deterring their use and we believe that given this, only a legislative ban will be effective. Scotland is now lagging behind the Welsh and Westminster Government’s in their approach to dealing with shock collars and we hope that this will soon be put right.” 

Dee McIntosh, Director of Communications at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home adds,

“Battersea believes banning the use of electronic shock collars on dogs is long overdue. It’s clear that positive reinforcement techniques, such as reward-based training, are far more effective at changing a dog's behaviour without inflicting unnecessary pain. So when the Scottish Government reviews animal welfare legislation around electronic shock collars, we hope they’ll finally ban the use of these cruel devices.”

What is positive based training?

  • Positive reinforcement training or reward-based training uses praise and/or treats to reward your dog for behaving the right way. The dog will associate a reward with the desired behaviour, which makes him more likely to repeat the behaviour.
  • Positive methods of training were reported to be more successful than e-collar use when direct comparisons were made between training with e-collars vs with positive reinforcement.

1 Populus surveyed 2,067 adults online from across the UK. Fieldwork took place between 9th and 11th February 2018. The data has been taken from nationally representative omnibus surveys and has been weighted to the profile of the population. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at  www.populus.co.uk.

2  Lines, J. A., Van Driel, K., & Cooper, J. J. (2013). The characteristics of electronic training collars for dogs. Veterinary Record, 172(11), 288 (N.B Voltage, along with other factors such as impedance influence the perception of shock, which is likely to vary between dogs.) 

3 - Salgirli, Y., Schalke, E., Boehm, I., & Hackbarth, H. (2012). Comparison of learning effects and stress between 3 different training methods (electronic training collar, pinch collar and quitting signal) in Belgian Malinois Police Dogs. Revue De Medecine Veterinaire, 163, 530-535.

Schilder, M. B., & Van der Borg, J. A. (2004). Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 85(3), 319-334.