12/03/2018 10:41 GMT | Updated 12/03/2018 10:41 GMT

We Must Outlaw Electric Shock Collars - As Soon As Possible

To be frank, there should be no place for this type of outdated practice. It is not enough to simply tighten up regulations

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The announcement from Defra secretary Michael Gove proposing government action to ban electric shock collars (ESCs) for cats and dogs is very welcome.

I hope that animal lovers will take the opportunity to engage in the upcoming consultation and make their feelings clear.

For some time now, I have been lobbying colleagues across the chamber to support my campaign to outlaw the use, sale and distribution of these barbaric devices.

There is a difference between simply banning the use of ESCs and stopping the sale and distribution altogether.

That has been a key plank of my campaign and one of the reasons why I started this work in the first place.

In Scotland, my Scottish Conservative colleague Maurice Golden worked hard to persuade the SNP government at Holyrood to agree to look into a ban.

Guidance will now be changed for prosecutors north of the border, but banning the sale and distribution of these items remains outwith the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

It requires action at Westminster to outlaw ESCs altogether.

My understanding is that Defra will listen to the public and consider action to curb both the use and sale of ESCs if responses to the consultation support that view.

I have made the case as forcefully as I can in the chamber, with colleagues around parliament and in a meeting with Michael Gove.

Many have been astonished that these so-called training aids are still so prevalent at a time when there have been significant advances in positive, reward-based training. 

My campaign does end with the Defra announcement of a consultation today, however.

I have secured a Westminster Hall debate on this issue, which will take place on Tuesday.

I will make the argument again that you don’t have to own a pet to understand that ESCs are cruel and unnecessary.

They are openly marketed and sold as training aids, and they work by instilling fear of punishment in the animal.

When fitted, ESCs deliver an electric shock either via remote control or an automatic trigger such as a dog’s bark. The punishment can last for up to 11 seconds. 

The theory is that having received a shock, the dog is more likely to do what it is asked, rather than from a natural willingness to obey.

Research commissioned by Defra showed that one in four dogs subjected to ESCs showed signs of stress compared to fewer than five percent who were trained by more positive methods.

It was found that a third of dogs yelped when they felt a shock, and a further quarter again when the punishment was repeated.

The research also found that, even when used by professionals, there were still long-term impacts on dog welfare.

To be frank, there should be no place for this type of outdated practice, particularly given the recent advances in positive, reward-based training.

In my view, it is not enough to simply tighten up regulations.

We need to outlaw these devices altogether – as soon as possible.

Ross Thomson is the Conservative MP for Aberdeen South