Disappointing deal for dogs in Scotland, say vets

04 October 2016

New legislation and regulations in Scotland are "disappointing for dogs"

Today the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and BVA Scottish Branch expressed disappointment at new Scottish Government legislation for dog welfare, including announcements on the sale and use of aversive training devices, and tail docking of working dogs.

The decision to prohibit the sale and use of electric pulse, sonic and spray collars in Scotland, unless under the guidance of an approved trainer or vet, has been cautiously welcomed by BVA, however the new regulations do not go far enough. In January this year BVA, along with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), answered the government's consultation, and called for an all-out ban on these devices.

Although this new legislation will ban the sale of these items to the public, there is concern from vets and animal behaviourists that the devices will still be used by some as a method of training. This raises a number of welfare issues, such as the difficulty in accurately judging the level of electric pulse to apply to a dog without causing unnecessary suffering or understanding how variables, such as the dog being wet, can impact the electric pulse felt. Research also shows that aversive training collars are no more effective than positive reinforcement methods.

Grace Webster, President of the British Veterinary Association Scottish Branch, said:
“Electronic training devices, such as electric pulse collars, have a negative, painful effect on dogs and can cause them unnecessary suffering. We know from our own consultation with leading veterinary behaviourists that using fear as a training tool is less effective than positive reinforcement and can instead take a toll on the dog's overall welfare. We have grave concerns over how enforceability will work without an outright ban. We hoped that today's announcement would put a complete stop to the use of these training methods, however it is a small step forward and we will continue to lobby the government to further their legislation.”

Dog welfare in Scotland received a further negative lot with the overturn of the ban on tail docking for working dogs. Going forward working Spaniels and Hunt Point retrievers will be allowed to have one third of their tail removed in an attempt to prevent tail damage later in life.

BVA has long campaigned for a ban on tail docking and believes that puppies suffer unnecessary pain as a result of docking, and are deprived of a vital form of canine expression. Until recently Scotland has led the way on tail docking welfare for dogs with a complete ban of the practice, and this new announcement is a retrograde step for animal welfare in the country.

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:
“After the clear leadership the Scottish Government has shown on tail docking, we are saddened at the decision to reverse its stance. BVA has carefully considered all the evidence and remains convinced that tail docking in dogs is detrimental to animal welfare.”

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