As a dog lover, and proud owner of Maximus - a very loyal, cheeky and charming jack russell - I would never want to see pain or fear, in any shape or form, inflicted upon them. After all, dogs are called man's best friend for a reason and we need to make sure we treat them as such. This is why I am supporting the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, two major dog welfare organisations, in their campaign to have electric shock collars banned throughout the rest of the UK as they are in Wales, and am questioning why the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are continuing to ignore its own research on these devices.
Because of this, today I will be standing up in the House of Commons and calling for a ban on the sale and use of electric shock collars, through a Ten Minute Rule Bill. Ten Minute Rule Bills can be used to voice concerns on the need to change the law on a particular subject, and the process will allow me to express the need for an outright ban and to gauge the opinion of Parliament on this important issue - one which has a strong bearing on dog welfare.
A number of research studies have found electric shock collars to be unnecessary in the training of dogs and most recently two pieces of Defra-funded research, carried out by teams at the University of Lincoln and University of Bristol, show that these collars can cause negative behavioural and physiological changes in dogs and are open to misuse by users of them. Should this be ignored? Should we turn away from all those dogs being subjected to short and sharp or prolonged electric shocks to 'correct' their undesirable behaviour? I for one am not willing to, and along with the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, will continue to campaign against these until they are, like most barbaric practises carried throughout history, a distant memory.
Some 300,000 electric shock collars were reportedly in use across the UK in 2012 according to the University of Lincoln. That means that there are potentially 300,000 dogs who are being subjected to pain that they don't understand, by owners who may not even know how to use one of these collars. When I think of someone treating Maximus like this, it gives me all the boost I need to oppose shock collars. If you have a dog, and could deal with behavioural issues through positive, reward-based methods would you feel comfortable shocking him hoping to get results?
When a dog gets shocked, it has no idea what has caused the pain, and is far more likely to associate it with something in its immediate environment that with its own behaviour at the time, which is why it is common for dogs to attack other dogs, their owner or another animal close by at the time of the shock. These devices are wholly unnecessary, and avoiding them could ensure you are doing your part towards improving dog welfare. If you have a dog with behavioural issues, check out reward-based training methods first - if it's good enough for the police, the armed forces and assistance dogs organisations, whose dogs are widely regarded as being some of the most well trained in the world - then it must be worth sticking with.
More information on the campaign to get electric shock collars banned, and advice on how to write to your MP about the issue, can be found here.