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Scottish Government Policy on Electronic Training Collars

Proposed Guidance

In light of concern regarding the potential misuse of electronic training collars (e-collars), we intend to issue Guidance on these and other training methods under Section 38 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

We will issue guidance, under that Act, to make it clear that training that includes unpleasant stimuli or physical punishment can cause pain, suffering and distress and that any such pain, suffering and distress caused by an inappropriate training method, including electronic collars, may constitute the offence of causing unnecessary suffering under that Act.

This guidance may be considered relevant in a future prosecution. Although guidance is advisory, a court may, at their discretion, take into account compliance or non-compliance with guidance in establishing liability in a prosecution.

In due course this guidance may be incorporated into a revised Code of Practice or wider Guidance for the welfare of dogs, along with additional guidance on other topics of dog welfare not currently covered in detail in the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs.

Proposed draft wording has been agreed with key stakeholders and has been provided to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee of the Scottish Parliament for consideration.  A copy is provided below

Draft Guidance on Dog Training Aids

Successful dog training is expected to deliver dogs that consistently demonstrate appropriate social behaviours with both other dogs and people.  It should also meet legal requirements and public expectations in terms of the control that an owner has over their dog’s behaviour.  Ideally training will be conducted with the assistance of a qualified trainer and the most effective method of training dogs is reward-based (positive) training.

Training that includes unpleasant (aversive) stimuli or physical punishment may cause unacceptable pain, suffering and distress.  It is important to note that causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal is an offence under Section 19 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, if the person knew, or ought to have known, that the action would cause unnecessary suffering.  This may include unnecessary suffering caused by inappropriate training methods. 

Particular training devices that the Scottish Government does not condone are: electronic shock (static pulse) collars, electronic anti-bark collars, electronic containment systems, prong collars, or any other method to inflict physical punishment or negative reinforcement.  This includes the use of any device that squirts oils such as citronella or other noxious chemicals that interfere with a dog’s acute sense of smell, or emits any other aversive stimulus. These techniques compromise dog welfare, as they may lead to aggressive responses and worsen the problems that they aim to address by masking or aggravating underlying behavioural issues.

This guidance is advisory and may provide an aid to both dog owners and those involved in the enforcement of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.  Those responsible for enforcement  of the 2006 Act may refer to the guidance when issuing advice, warning letters or care notices under the 2006 Act.  A Court may, at its discretion, consider the guidance in a prosecution under Section 19 or Section 24 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.”