Part III: Options
There are four options being proposed, bearing in mind that different approaches may be appropriate for different types or uses of collars:
1. Status quo
The Scottish Government supports the work currently being done between Defra and the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association (ECMA) on guidance for dog owners and trainers advising how to use electronic collars properly.
ECMA are also working with the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to develop a manufacturers' charter to make sure any electronic collars on sale are made to high standards.
2. Develop guidance or a statutory welfare code
It would be possible under Section 37 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 for Scottish Ministers to produce a code of practice providing practical guidance on the use of electronic training devices. Codes of practice are a useful source of information and advice on how to provide acceptable welfare standards for animals and may be taken into account by the courts.
These codes must be consulted on and approved by the Parliament before coming into effect and revocation.
Under Section 37 (8) and (9) of the Act failure to comply with an animal welfare code is not itself an offence, but could be relied upon to establish liability for an offence under the Act.
As an alternative, under Section 38 of the Act, Scottish Ministers may issue guidance to secure the welfare of protected animals. This type of guidance would not need to be formally consulted on or approved by the Parliament. It would give a clear outline of 'good practice', as referred to in Section 24(1) of the Act to ensure the welfare of protected animals.
3. Develop regulations on the use of electronic collars
In order to secure the welfare of animals it is possible for the Scottish Ministers to make regulations under section 27 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 requiring those who sell, distribute or use these devices on protected animals to be licensed or otherwise authorised.
Under section 26 of the 2006 Act, legislative controls could be introduced on the technical specification of the collars that could, for example, specify the maximum strength of stimulus that could be administered and require that the strength could be adjusted, with suitable graduations, to avoid excessive stimulation.
In practice, in today's global and internet market, regulation of the manufacture or sale of electronic training aids is likely to be difficult to enforce. However, the use of these devices could be limited to those, for example, who held a qualification in animal training or behaviour. Alternatively there might be a legal requirement for written approval by recognised trainers or veterinary surgeons and for the devices to be used only in accordance with official guidance.
4. Ban the use of electronic collars
There is provision in section 26 of the 2006 Act to allow Scottish Ministers to make regulations banning electronic collars if it can be shown that a ban on these devices would secure the welfare of animals and that this would be a proportionate measure.
Any such regulation could make it an offence to use one of these devices on an animal.
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