I think most of us know about electric collars for dogs which deliver a shock for the purpose of training the animal. Many people consider this to be wholly unacceptable. As for cats I know of no such collar except for one. This is when a cat with a collar is part of a cat confinement system.
This system uses a cable that runs around the cat owner’s property. The cable is usually buried. When the cat approaches the cable he or she is given a warning beep. If the cat continues to approach the cable a shock is delivered to the cat. This deters the cat from wandering beyond the confines of the property owner’s garden and therefore is a benefit to the health and welfare of the cat. Except that it delivers a shock which once again many people will find objectionable.
The current environment secretary of the UK government, Michael Gove, wants to outlaw the use of any collars on cats and dogs which deliver an electric shock. There have been banned in Wales since 2010.
There’s very little that one can say in defence of electric shock collars for dogs as a training aid. Only one association has come forward to support them, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. A spokesperson for the association said, “electronic collars used properly are an effective method for addressing serious problem behaviours in dogs which may otherwise be put to sleep”.
A colleague of Mr Gove who is also a government minister, Mr Grayling, has, we are told, a couple of cats and he uses the cat containment fence which I have referred to above.
As for the cat containment system, a ban on electric shock collars is more problematic because as the cat charity Feline Friends said the collars are used by tens of thousands of people to keep cats safe.
The charity’s chairperson, Caroline Fawcett, who uses the collars on her three cats accused Mr Gove of putting cats at risk by trying to ban the devices. She believes that the ban will be barbaric and kill thousands of cherished pets. Like many other cat owners she has lost much-loved cats on busy roads and will not allow her cats to wander as she did before. My suggestion would be to use a cat containment fence such as the one that I use around my back garden. They are just as effective if not more so and do not provide an electric shock.
Caroline Fawcett says that Mr Gove is threatening the lives of her cats with no scientific evidence to support his assertions. She makes an interesting point actually in that the current law in the UK requires cat owners to protect their cats from pain, suffering and injury. She is referring to the Animal Welfare Act 2006. I think, however, that her argument is weak because she’s more or less saying that 95% of cat owners in the UK are in breach of that act because they let their cats wonder anywhere and anytime. That can’t be a good argument.
My experience of the cat containment device using a shock collar is that it is not that effective in any case and not well used. Further, there are good alternatives and therefore on balance I don’t support it but would support a ban on electric shock collars as one further step towards an improvement in companion animal welfare in the UK.