Banning electric dog collars is ‘naive nonsense’ that will lead to ‘absolute disaster for animal welfare’, a farmers’ union has warned the government.
More than 200 sheep farmers across England say they are experiencing a growing number of ‘distressing and heartbreaking’ dog attacks and the ban on training devices due to come into force this year is ‘totally irresponsible’.
In a letter to Boris and Carrie Johnson, who both campaigned for a ban on electronic collars when it was first announced in 2018, they warn the plans are “deeply wrong”.
The letter, led by the National Sheep Association, warns that in Wales, where a ban is already in place, there has been an increase in attacks on sheep and the number of dogs being slaughtered by farmers.
Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said: “Dog attacks on sheep are steadily getting worse and farmers are tired of the trauma of finding dead and injured sheep and in some cases telling people that they had to shoot their dogs.
Keep dogs on a leash
“The solution begins with owners leashing their dogs. But dogs with strong prey instincts also need to be trained and, as the signatories of this letter say, it would be foolish to deny them an effective and proven way to control them. train to be wary of sheep.
“We support regulation to minimize any risk of misuse – but a blanket ban on e-collar training would be grossly misguided.”
But last night officials insisted the ban was put in place to protect the dogs from abuse. It is understood that they plan to respond to farmers.
The government in Westminster has promised to ban the devices, which are used to train around 300,000 dogs, in 2018 and has pledged to introduce new legislation this year.
When the ban was announced, then Environment Secretary Michael Gove urged people “to use positive reward training methods instead”. Animal charities suggest treats, including cookies, to teach pets.
The proposals are “naive nonsense”
But the letter warns that ‘the view that these attacks can be stopped by training a dog with biscuits instead is naive nonsense’.
He adds: “While we agree with Defra that it is important to use leashes on dogs around sheep, the vast majority of attacks occur when a dog has escaped. It would therefore be totally irresponsible to ban the only training that prevents such attacks and can prevent dogs from being put down or destroyed.
Farmers in Wales, including BBC star Gareth Wyn Jones, wrote to the Welsh Parliament in June asking ministers to overturn their ten-year ban on collars, which deliver a small electric shock.
Referring to their complaints, the 206 English farmers pointed out that the Welsh ‘suffer four times more attacks and have to shoot far more dogs than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK’.
Concern about abuse
“Above all, the government must not ban them,” they pleaded with the Prime Minister and his wife. “It would be an absolute disaster for animal welfare.”
A Defra spokesperson said: ‘The Government’s proposed ban on manual shock collars will protect dogs from these harmful devices which can be too easily abused.
“It is important that dogs are trained to behave well, ideally from an early age, and introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals. Dog owners can prevent livestock worry incidents by keeping their pet dogs on a leash near livestock.