To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 9 March 2020 to Question 24232 on Dogs: Electronic Training Aids, what the merits for animal welfare are of (a) not banning electronic collars used to stop dogs barking of (b) banning electronic collars used to stop dogs chasing livestock.
Following a consultation in 2018, and as set out in our Action Plan for Animal Welfare, the Government decided to ban electric shock collars controlled by hand-held devices in England, under new legislation which should be introduced this year, given their scope to harm cats and dogs.
We have listened carefully to a range of views from pet owners and respondents, as well as consulting key stakeholders including animal welfare charities, e-collar manufacturers, and trainers who use e-collars.
The proposed ban on the use of electric shock collars controlled by hand-held devices was developed after considering a broad range of factors, including the impact of a ban. When considered alongside the academic research, the public consultation responses, and direct engagement with the sector, the Government concluded that these types of electric shock collars present an unacceptable risk to the welfare of dogs and cats and that their use should not be permitted.
The research revealed that many e-collar users were not using them properly and in compliance with the manufacturers’ instructions. As well as being misused to inflict unnecessary harm, there is also concern that e-collars can redirect aggression or generate anxiety-based behaviour in pets, making underlying behavioural and health problems worse.
We appreciate that the right approach for pet owners to take in managing and controlling their dog’s behaviour differs from both person to person and from pet to pet. Defra would advise all owners who are concerned about controlling their dog’s behaviour, for whatever reason, to take advice from their vet or a suitably qualified dog behaviourist or trainer. Such specialists would be best positioned to advise on the best approach for their specific case. The Animal Behaviour and Training Council maintains national registers of appropriately qualified trainers and behaviourists.
The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs includes guidance and reminders for owners about their responsibilities to provide for the welfare needs of their animal, but also to keep their dogs safe and under control.
The Code of Practice applies to handling dogs in the vicinity of livestock and taking action to prevent dogs from escaping to reduce the occurrence of attacks or chasing. The best proven method of preventing a dog from attacking livestock is to keep the dog on a lead when exercising around other animals, as advised by farmers and other keepers of livestock.
Natural England has also published a refreshed version of the Countryside Code, which makes specific reference to keeping dogs in sight and under control to make sure they stay away from livestock, wildlife, horses and other people unless invited. Moreover, the Countryside Code helpfully sets out certain legal requirements, encouraging visitors to always check local signs as there are locations where you must keep your dog on a lead around livestock for all or part of the year.