Imagine if dogs wrote the next Conservative manifesto. What would be their priorities? To be allowed off the lead in the countryside. To not be shot by farmers. To avoid being put down. And to not have their nether regions chopped off. Yet all these things will be consequences if Defra bans the e-collars used to protect dogs from harming other animals or themselves.
Three hundred thousand dogs are currently able to roam safely off-lead because of e-collars. These dogs can bound around the countryside without the owner worrying that it might spot a field of sheep and be gone over the horizon beyond human ability to catch it up.
E-collars give dogs the freedom they crave because they can – and do – stop these attacks. They are the only reliable way. We know this because campaigners against e-collars tell owners that they should keep their pets on the lead all the time in the countryside. So much for a dog-friendly policy.
How do e-collars work? For training, e-collars are used at very low settings. Higher levels are used to interrupt the hunting instinct when a dog goes into attack mode. Once that red mist has taken hold only an e-collar can stop the dog from savaging sheep. Or a bullet. E-collars are the emergency devices that stop dogs harming animals, people – or themselves by running into roads.
So the purpose is good. But is startling a dog to stop it killing or being killed unkind? Well in February Defra officials said their scientific research found no impact on dogs that could justify a ban. (See Guido yesterday).
Defra wants to chain dogs for life to leads while still allowing them to be used with aversive head and prong collars. Michael Gove’s epitaph could be: “He Made Dogs Miserable.”
As well as being the end of freedom for many dogs, Defra’s policy would be the end of life for others. Owners of big dogs with strong prey instincts struggle to physically contain them. Think of disabled owners for whom e-collars are the only way to control their dog. Think of deaf dogs for whom vibrating collars give them the means to hear their owner. What would be the result for these owners?
They would have to give their dogs back to charities. And what would these charities do with dogs which had proved impossible to train and restrain through other ways? Put them down. Many of them former rescue dogs which had been given a second chance through e-collars. Would these dogs think their premature deaths are loving?
Finally there is one other common practice for attempting to reduce the aggressiveness of big dogs. Cut their testicles off. Votes for castration? Think again Michael. Fido thinks e-collars are the dog’s b*ll*cks.
This is the second of four articles. Tomorrow at 09:30 – who would benefit from a ban on e-collars: Charities in the Dog House