A coalition of prominent veterinary and animal welfare organisations is urging the UK Government to uphold its commitment to banning hand-held electronic shock collars for dogs and cats.

They are speaking out after a delay in parliamentary debate and implementation of the ban, originally set for February 1, 2024. The delay raises concerns among animal welfare advocates, including Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, RSPCA, Battersea, British Veterinary Association, and Blue Cross.

Government Under Pressure to Implement Ban

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had previously announced the prohibition of electric shock collars. However, the lack of parliamentary debate has hindered the enforcement of this crucial legislation, prompting concerns from the veterinary and animal welfare sectors. Over 51,000 members of the public expressed their support for the ban by writing to their MPs.

Independent polling by The Kennel Club and RSPCA also revealed significant public backing for a ban on shock collars. With over 9 in 10 UK adults supporting an urgent prohibition on the use of shock collars, the results underscore the widespread concern for animal welfare. The coalition of organisations is adamant about the unnecessary and cruel nature of these aversive training devices.

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust, speaking on behalf of the coalition, additionally stated, “We are incredibly disappointed that the UK Government has seemingly reneged on its commitment to end the use of hand-held electric shock collars in England. These devices are both unnecessary and cruel, and this is a view held not just by our organisations but by more than 51,000 people who have shown their support for a ban.”

The Case Against Electric Shock Collars

The coalition, consisting of well-respected organisations, has been actively campaigning against the use of electric shock collars for an extended period. The primary focus is on advocating positive reward-based methods, which have proven effective without causing harm to animals. The delay in the ban’s implementation has sparked collective efforts to ensure the UK Government follows through on its promise.

Electric shock collars are handheld devices that can be used on dogs and cats to train them by administering a shock to the animal’s neck as a form of punishment for unwanted behaviors. Research indicates that, instead of improving behavior, the use of such devices may lead to further problems. Advocates for the ban argue that positive reinforcement methods are equally effective without causing harm to the animals.

Impact on Animal Health and Welfare

Studies have demonstrated the serious impact of electric shock collars on the welfare of animals. The collateral effects include behavioral and physiological signs of distress, exacerbation of existing unwanted behaviors, and the development of new issues. The use of shock collars also raises concerns about animals associating shocks with their owners or the environment, potentially leading to fear, aggression, or avoidance.

The coalition emphasises that robust research evidence supports positive reinforcement as an effective approach to changing behavior. Electric shock collars, on the other hand, pose risks to both the physical and mental well-being of animals, prompting the urgent need for their prohibition.

As the organisations collectively advocate for the ban’s implementation, the focus remains on ensuring the welfare of dogs and cats across England by eliminating the use of these aversive training devices. The coalition is calling on DEFRA to prioritise parliamentary time for the ban and deliver on the commitment to safeguard animal welfare.