RSPCA Cymru has renewed calls for the retention of a full ban on electronic training devices on dogs and cats in Wales, as legislation outlawing the devices passes 100 months on the statute book.
The animal welfare charity say calls to relax, or water down, the ban on electronic training devices – namely around containment fencing – would prove “detrimental for pet welfare”. RSPCA Cymru has long opposed use of the devices, which they say can cause fear and pain in pets.
The Animal Welfare (Electronic Collars) (Wales) Regulations 2010 has been in force since March 2010 – and outlawed any collar that is capable of administering an electric shock to a cat or dog. The end of July marked 100 months since the law came into force.
However, some campaigners have called for a change to the law, legalising electronic collars linked with invisible boundary fencing or hidden fencing. RSPCA Cymru say this is “misguided” and the focus should be on positive training practices and humane and effective containment methods.
Positively, in 2016, the Welsh Government commissioned Dr Ruth Lysons to undertake a review into the legislation, which found the animal welfare cost would exceed any benefits to reversing the ban on electronic fencing systems for dogs and cats.
Dr Samantha Gaines, head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department, said: “We are deeply concerned by any calls to relax the ban on electronic training devices. Any misguided campaign seeking to do this is quite simply detrimental for pet welfare.
“These devices are designed to be aversive; delivering an electric stimulus to stop unwanted behaviour, and can cause dogs and cats to exhibit behaviours associated with pain, fear and stress. Put simply they are cruel and completely unnecessary.
“We passionately believe any change to the law would not be in the interests of the welfare of Wales’ dogs and cats, and would be unpopular with the general public.
“The legislation has been a big leap forward for animal welfare – with the RSPCA undertaking the first successful prosecution under the regulations in 2011. It’s been such an important law for cats and dogs.
“That’s why it is vital that any campaign to water down or revoke this legislation is rebuffed – and we continue with a law which, for more than 100 months, has helped keep Wales’ cats and dogs protected from unnecessary pain and fear.”
In 2010 Wales became the first, and remains the only, UK nation to introduce a ban on the use of such devices for use on dogs and cats.
Electric shock collars are used to train or control dogs and cats and are based on applying pain or fear to stop an unwanted behaviour. Scientific studies have shown that such techniques can compromise welfare and may make behavioural problems worse.
Dr Gaines added: “Such techniques are both unacceptable and unnecessary. Instead, reward-based training, which uses praise, toys and treats achieves long-term change in behaviour and doesn’t subject the animal to pain or distress. There are also more effective and humane ways to contain pets, for example, cat friendly fencing.
“As such, we oppose the use of electronic training devices, including containment fences to train and control dogs and cats.
“We would urge owners who wish to train or prevent their pets from straying to use kind and effective methods as research has shown that applying an electric shock can result in behavioural and physiological responses associated with pain, fear and distress and can compromise welfare.”
Earlier this year the UK Government launched a consultation concerning a ban on the use of electric shock collars in England. The Scottish Government has recently issued government guidance against the use of electronic shock collars.