The arguments for and against the use of Electric Pulse Training Aids (EPTAs) on pets have been published in a report led by Professor Daniel Mills from the University of Lincoln.
The review by the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) looks at current scientific research and evidence from members of the public, with regards to the moral complexity surrounding EPTAs or “shock collars”.
Lead author Professor Mills, from the School of Life Sciences, said that people who support the use and those who are against it both have a real concern about dog welfare and want to do what is best for their pet.
Prof Mills, who is a CAWC committee member, said: “Sometimes it’s portrayed that people who use EPTAs are cruel and ignorant, but I don’t think that’s the case. People are genuinely looking for a solution to a potentially serious problem which impacts on their quality of life and that of others. For example, a dog that worries sheep can be devastating to a farmer’s business. But just keeping a dog on a lead the whole time when you live in the countryside is not good for the pet so that is why a solution needs to be found.”
It is estimated that around 300,000 “shock collars” are in use in the UK alone, and although the report notes that the devices can be used to inflict suffering there is insufficient evidence to indicate whether significant suffering is routinely the outcome of their use.
Prof Mills explained it is important to distinguish between devices which are activated by the animal’s behaviour and those operated with a hand held device.
He said: “There is a big concern which arises from a human operator and their skills as opposed to using the EPTA in boundary control. The second option can give the animal a warning when it comes close to the boundary, which only delivers the stimulus if it is ignored. Particularly in the case of cats, there may not be a viable alternative if the animal is to have outdoor access – some of our current research is looking at this issue in more detail. We know the devices have the potential for abuse – the question is what should be done about that. However, the evidence for misuse is not as strong as is sometimes portrayed. They can be used in a bad way, but so can a hammer.”
The report goes on to recommend that if Government continue to support the legality of EPTAs that additional safeguards against their misuse should be included, such as a voltage limitation feature and a licensing of practitioners together with a procedure for documenting each use.
Additional research is soon to be published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the use of hand held devices with regard to the animal’s welfare.
The report is available at the CAWC website www.cawc.org.uk
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