Scotland to ban electronic shock collars for dogs

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 24 January 2018 in News

Roseanna Cunningham unveiled the plans following pressure from opposition MSPs, as well as SNP backbenchers, saying, “I want there to be no doubt that painful or unpleasant training for dogs will not be tolerated.”

Image credit: Jamie Montgomery

The Scottish Government will take steps to ban electronic shock collars for dogs, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced.

Cunningham unveiled the plans following pressure from opposition MSPs, as well as SNP backbenchers, saying, “I want there to be no doubt that painful or unpleasant training for dogs will not be tolerated.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden had tabled a motion calling for a ban, to be debate in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow, while SNP, Scottish Green and Scottish Labour MSPs have all previously urged the government to take action.

But while Cunningham pledged to work with Scottish enforcement agencies to enforce practical measures, so that anyone found causing pain to dogs through the use of collars or other devices can be prosecuted, the Scottish Government warned that under current devolution arrangements controls on the import of electronic devices are reserved to the UK Government.

As such, unless importing shock collars is prohibited at a UK level, any restriction on their sale in Scotland could be circumvented through online purchases.

Speaking today, Cunningham promised to issue “strong ministerial guidance on the use of all painful training devices for courts to take into consideration in any cases brought before them regarding unnecessary suffering through the use of these devices”.

She said: “After carefully considering the concerns raised by stakeholders and the public about electronic training collars for dogs, particularly the ready availability on the internet of cheap devices which can be bought by anyone and used to deliver painful electric shocks, I have decided to take steps to effectively and promptly ban their use in Scotland.”

Opposition parties welcomed the move.

Golden said: “I’m glad that our campaigning has finally forced the SNP to see sense on this issue; that electric shock collars are harmful, and the expert advice is clear that electrocuting dogs doesn’t help train them.

“I will therefore ensure that the Scottish Government sticks to its promise and imposes a total ban on these collars to further protect dogs from cruelty and unnecessary pain”.

Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth pointed to pressure from Labour and animal welfare campaigners for “forcing the SNP government into a rethink on the use of electric shock collars”.

He said: “These collars don’t belong in the 21st century and do cause unnecessary pain that is detrimental to the welfare of dogs.

“However, the government now needs to listen to views on whether their proposed advisory guidance actually goes far enough.

“A Labour government in Wales has led the way on this issue with a full ban and the Scottish Government needs to catch up and ensure that is what happens in Scotland.”

The Greens also backed the decision, with MSP Mark Ruskell suggesting it could be “the start of a renewed interest in ending animal cruelty in Scotland, but there is much more still to be done”.

He said: “In just two months Scottish ministers have shifted from proposing a new qualification for those who wanted to hurt dogs - an NVQ in animal abuse - to making it clear that use of these devices can be considered as criminal. This is significant progress for those of us who have campaigned on the issue, although Westminster should now act to take shock collars off the market altogether. Without that outright ban it seems likely that these devices will continue to be used in private by unscrupulous dog trainers.

“This announcement follows on from the Scottish Government's decision to permit tail docking, another procedure widely condemned by dog lovers and experts alike. Although that law is now on the books, as a dog owner myself I guarantee the campaign will continue until that practice is ended too.”

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