A well-known cat containment device is employed in the UK and in America. You place a wire around your garden which transmits a signal to a receiver on your cat’s collar. When your cat approaches the wire she receives a noise and if she then proceeds further towards the wire she receives a mild electric shock which deters her from going over the wire into hazardous territory such as roads. It is an effective way of containing your cat in your garden (backyard in America). The big question is whether it is cruel.
A well-known personality, Andrew Lloyd-Webber loves cats which is partly why he wrote the ever popular smash it musical Cats based on TS Eliot’s collection of feline poems. Lord Lloyd-Webber uses this electric shock cat containment system. He is one of 40,000 cat and dog lovers who are facing criminalisation for employing the device. Lord Lloyd-Webber has Turkish Van cats which I find interesting. He uses the system to prevent his cats wandering onto a fast country road beside his estate in Hampshire, UK. The wire runs around his 350 acre estate which makes for a wonderfully safe and large area for cats to roam within.
However, a recent announcement tells us that the UK government has plans to ban the use of electric collars on dogs and cats in England. The point is this: there are different forms of electric shock training devices. Arguably some are acceptable but this is a discussion point. Michael Gove, the highly effective environment secretary who is able to push laws through Parliament, has included in the proposals “containment fence” systems such as the one used by Lord Lloyd-Webber.
In the Times newspaper a number of veterinarians have written a letter in which they say that this form of cat containment is not cruel but highly effective and saves the lives of 300,000 cats who would otherwise have been killed on the roads every year. They argue that collars of this type i.e. those employed in this form of containment system, are:
“overwhelmingly in the pet’s interests. In these systems the pet is in control and quickly learns not to go close to the boundary. If it ignores the initial warning buzzer then the electric pulse it receives is very mild.”
Another high-profile person using the system is Sir Steve Redgrave, the well-known Olympic gold medallist rower. He uses it to confine his Old English Sheepdog from wandering out of his unfenced 3 acre garden. He says that his dog, Arthur, has received a shock on fewer than 10 occasions over the six years that he has employed the fence.
The RSPCA is against the system. They support a ban on electric collars using containment systems as well as those used as training devices. I think that it is well accepted that the use of electric shock collars in training devices on dogs is certainly cruel and must be banned. However, there is a difference between that formal version of training and this form of containment fence.
This is clearly a tricky discussion because this pet containment device does train a cat or dog through punishment and punishment is universally accepted as being unacceptable in the training of pets. However on the upside it saves lives and the electric shock is very mild as stated. On balance, I would tend to agree that its use is acceptable. What do you think?