RSPCA Censured Officially Yet Again

The standard of corporate governance at the RSPCA remains in question as further problems in the management of the organisation come to light. The RSPCA went two years without a permanent chief executive after Gavin Grant left in 2014 having secured a 45% pay rise when compared to his predecessor. The appointment of Jeremy Cooper in 2016 seemed to hold out great promise as he recognised why the RSPCA is held in such low esteem amongst animal professionals and the general public and he stated, “We are going to be a lot less political. It doesn’t mean we won’t stand up for animals. But we are not a political organisation.” The fact that he remained in post for barely a year in spite of having attempted to impliment a five year strategy for the RSPCA speaks volumes for an organisation that clearly has no intention of mending its ways.

Chris Sherwood was appointed chief executive in August this year against a background of criticism in parliament dating back to 2013 for bringing private prosecutions rather than referring alleged offences to the Crown Prosecution Service and for spending £330,000 in a private prosecutions of the Cheshire, Cheshire Forest and the Ledbury Hunts which, unsurprisingly, did not result in convictions.

Quite apart from views on hunting or badger culls, the general public make generous donations to the RSPCA in the expection that they will investigate cases of genuine animal cruelty. In 2017, the RSPCA received 1,331 calls relating to 4,616 horses and ponies and by their own admission said that “…cases relating to horses were a “crisis” which showed no sign of abating. the same could be said of individual cases of cruelty, never mind the every day casual cruelty meted out to companion animals that goes on day after day. the RSPCA wanted the AWA 2006 and proclaimed it as a triumph. How many of the 40% of people whose dogs are overweight or obese have been prosecuted for over-feeding which is a clear breach of the Act? How many peopl ehave been prosecuted for mis-housing and mis-feeding cats and rabbits and causing suffering? The RSPCA received £143.5M in donations in 2016, £11.5M was in the form of legacies. In the same year, the Information Commissioner’s Office levied fines of £20,000 for breaches of the Data Protection Act 1988 in their fundraising practices following 503 complaints about its practices. The RSPCA blamed it on a “coding change” to their database.

Now the Charity Commission has issued an official warning to the RSPCA after finding that the chair, vice-chair, treasurer and deputy treasurer mis-managed the process of agreeing a very large pay-off to its former acting chief executive, Michael Ward, who was forced to step into the breach when Jeremy Cooper left and that they “…failed to act with reasonable care and skill in relation to the negotiation with the former acting chief executive”.

Chris Sherwood, formerly chief executive of the charity Relate, accepted the poisoned chalice of RSPCA CEO: he may well find that his marriage guidance skills come in handy with his own board. The official warning concludes that members of the council should receive formal training in corporate governance and must ensure that the council adheres to the charity’s code of conduct. They are required to commission an independent report on the processes followed in recruiting and appointing a new chief executive; that will make interesting reading.

Since the passing of the Charities Act 2016, only five official warnings have been issued by the regulator who stated that, in the case of the RSPCA, the level of engagement was “…concerning considering the Charity’s size and importance” and that the “unusually high turnover” of chief executives combined with significant periods of time when the RSPCA was without a substantive chief executive in post were additional matters for concern.

The RSPCA responded that they were confident that they were “heading the right direction” as a “modern charity”. As it happens, I have had reason to have personal experience of the RSPCA in recent weeks and it does nothing to lead me to think that anything has changed.

Meanwhile, as ever, it is always the animals that suffer. Fat cats take payouts whilst barely making in dent in the number of fat cats, beaten dogs, starved horses and any other number of suffering animals.

Treacherous Thames – Canine Casualties on the Tideway

When most people think of lifeboats they have images of dark and stormy nights, Grace Darling battling huge waves and dramatic launches from seaside slipways. It may be surprising then, to realise that the busiest lifeboat station in the UK is on the river Thames at Tower Bridge, with the other three Thames stations at Chiswick, Gravesend and Teddington being the next busiest. The Thames has had its own lifeboats since 2001 when a safety enquiry following the Marchioness disaster saw the establishment of Tower Bridge station. Uniquely, the Thames stations are manned permanently and vessels are required to be afloat within 90 seconds of being notified of an incident. Chiswick has 3 E-class inshore boats that were designed specifically for the conditions on the Thames: the Chelsea Pensioner (E-003), the Joan and Kenneth Bellamy (E-006) and Dougie and Donna B (E-008). E-class boats are the fastest vessels in service with the RNLI and can reach up to 95% of casualties between Canvey Island and Teddington within 15 minutes.

The Thames is a dangerous place. The tide can rise and fall up to 24ft twice a day and hide all sorts of submerged hazards as well as create treacherous currents and dangerous mud. The average water temperature is 12C (54F); cold water shock can occur at any temperature below 15C (59F). 34 people died in the river between 2000 and 2014. It doesn’t help that charming riverside pubs can create not-at-all-charming drunks who either fall in or think that they are invincible and can swim in all conditions.

Chiswick came into operation in January 2012. Up until the end of 2017, crews had attended 3,328 incidents and rescued 1,707 people, some of whom would otherwise have died.

The dangers aren’t just faced by humans but by dogs too. Involuntary ingestion of river water and the dangers of being infected by leptospirosis (Weill’s disease) can kill dogs and humans. Even the strongest swimmers can and do get swept away by the tide and can get trapped in a variety of hazards by unexpected currents that may not be visible from the bank. Already this year, the Chiswick station, operating between Richmond half lock and Battersea, has been called out for the seventh time to rescue a dog. Crews have also had to rescue handlers who try to retrieve dogs from the water and, as with the seashore, can be in greater danger than the dog that they are trying to bring in. Even if dogs don’t enter the water voluntarily, they can and do fall in not least when banks are slippery with weed and mud (and that’s the polite description, at least until the Thames Tideway becomes operational).

This is what happened when two dogs and their handlers got into difficulty on the Thames this summer.

There were a total of 132 lifeboat launches to dog walking incidents in 2015, with 119 handlers being rescued.

Don’t let yourself or your dog add to the statistics. Respect the water, keep your dog on the lead and/or get a canine lifejacket*. Don’t let your dog swim in the Thames or other tidal waters and make sure that there is no danger from algal blooms and similar in running or still water.

Never go in after your dog.

If your dog does get into difficulties, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard and keep yourself safe and, if necessary, warm.

Chiswick lifeboat station costs £495,000 per annum to run. The RNLI is completely independent of government and relies on volunteers and fundraising to operate. You can support Chiswick or any other part of the RNLI by taking part in a regular event such as SOS day at the end of January or National Lifeboat day in May or local events or by making a purchase from the RNLI shop* . Drop some change or even notes, into a tin. Even a small donation can help with the annual running costs.

Most of all, you can help by keeping yourself and your dog safe around water.

* CreDO and DogsNet.org do not take responsibility for products advertised on or purchased from third party websites.

Shocking Stance of CA – Literally

It was with horror that I read the news release from the Countryside Alliance which supports the use of shock collars and makes erroneous connections between the type of electric fencing used to confine cats and dogs with that used to confine livestock.

Comments from Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the CA include stating that the issue does “not seem like an issue to die in a ditch about” and that the motive behind the proposal to ban shock collars in England is for “the sake of a few headlines and tweets”. he then goes on to suggest that it could lead to “more cats and dogs being euthanased and placed in danger”. He then erroneously equates shock collars and electic boundary fences used in conjunction with shock collars with electric fences widely used to protect livestock.

The CA could take a lead in promoting non-adversive training which many of its members use to train dogs for the field, but instead is now allying itself with the animal abuse which many of its detractors have accused it (erroneously) in the past.

It is not too late for the CA to admit that they are in the wrong here. If you feel strongly and/or train your dog for the field using non-aversive methods, contact them today.

The consultation on the proposed ban on electonic shock collars closes on April 27th, 2018 so there is still time to have your say.

Click here to read the response from CReDO and DogsNet.

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore Irgo

In an update to yesterday’s post, it appears that United Airlines has made another serious error this week when transporting a dog.

A 10 year old German Shepherd should have been travelling with his owners on a 1,641 mile internal flight from Oregon to Kansas. Upon landing, the owners were handed a Great Dane. Irgo the German Shepherd had instead been taken on a 5,026 mile international flight to Japan.

Flying is a stressful event for all animals, let alone an elderly dog and a giant dog. The German Shepherd faced a flight of 6,219 miles to get to Kansas.

United, perhaps well aware of the adverse publicity and exposure of its multiple failures where carrying animals is concerned, flew both bogs back to their intended locations on private charter planes with dedicated handlers.

Death By Airline

It has been widely reported in the world’s media that a United Airlines employee insisted that a dog, travelling in an approved carrier, be stowed in an overhead locker where it subsequently died.

Federal standards for the transportation of animals are set by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a division of the US Department of Agriculture, which are based on the US Animal Welfare Act (7 USC § 2131). Specific regulations exist to cater for species requirements. The US Department of Transportation has required airlines to report losses, injuries and deaths of companion animals in transit both on internal and external flights operated by a US carrier since May 2015 and makes statistic public. In 2017, United Airlines transported 138,178 animals and reported 18 deaths and 13 injuries to animals in its care. Furthermore, Title 14, Section 234.13 of the Code of Federal Regulations
requires the US Department of Transportation to “work with air carriers to improve the training of employees with respect to the air transport of animals and the notification of passengers of the conditions under which the air transport of animals is conducted”. Two notices were issued to carriers at the beginning and end of 2015 to remind them of their obligations.

Between May 2005 and December 2017, 274 dogs, 54 cats, 7 birds, 3 chinchillas, 5 guinea pigs, 3 rabbits, 2 geckos, 1 monkey, 1 rat, 1 ferret, 1 snake, 1 pig and 3 unidentified animals have died when in the care of US airlines. A further 190 dogs and 16 cats were injured and 39 cats, 13 dogs and 2 birds went missing. 3 of the lost dogs and 1 of the lost cats were reported to have been recovered subsequently. 1 of the lost cats and 5 of the injured dogs subsequently died and 1 of the injured dogs was euthanised.

There is considerable variation in the carriers who take animals and in the numbers transported, but Delta Airlines has a similar poor record with 84 deaths, 33 injuries and 15 losses in the same period. American Airlines reported 57 deaths, 11 injuries and 5 losses, Continental Airlines 49 deaths, 16 injuries and 4 losses and Alaska Airlines 43 deaths, 67 injuries and 5 losses. The remaining 16 carriers reported an average of 30 deaths ranging from (none to 16), 30 injuries ranging from (none to 7) and 19 losses ranging from (none to 5).

The USDA has sanctioned various air carriers for violations of the Animal Welfare Act which include:

Allowing animals to suffer from hyperthermia and hypothermia causing injury and death
Accepting inadequate encloses for transportation causing injuries and loss
Causing death by inadequate ventilation
Causing injury and death by inadequate supervision including causing injury and death by dehydration and starvation
Causing death by crushing an enclosure and death by poor loading techniques and improper handling.

In addition:
Staff placed a dog’s enclosure on an elevated baggage claim conveyor belt
32 out of 106 dogs and 2 cats died and 52 other animals were injured when all but one dog were being shipped by dealers due to inadequate ventilation
50 dogs in a shipment of 81 died and 31 were injured due to inadequate ventilation. 6 of the 31 were later euthanised.

There were also frequent violations of the requirement to carry adequate documentation regarding animal care, specifically food and water, and of requirements to check that enclosures were adequate before permitting transportation.

Statistically of course, the number is extremely small, but each one represents an animal for which airline staff had a duty of care and of course, an animal to which a human was strongly attached enough to pay a not inconsiderable sum for its travel expecting that it would be safe.

In the case of the dog that died on the latest United Airlines flight, the airline has accepted responsibility and acknowledged that the flight attendant was not following accepted protocol. It beggars belief however, that the member of staff did not take further advice having realised that this was not a suitable way for a living animal to travel. In addition, all concerned, including the owner, ignored the dog’s distressed cries. Given that it has been reported to have been a French bulldog puppy, it would in all likelihood have had compromised breathing and poor ability to regulate body temperature.

In many ways, this is a direct consequence of designating dogs as “toy” types and “teacup dogs” and treating them no differently to accessories to be bred, bought, sold and handled as if they were handbags and shoes.

Waiting for the Wolf

It never ceases to amaze me how incorrect information sticks like glue and correct information seems to slide off the consciousness like oil off metal. An erroneous study from the 1940s is deeply etched into the collective psyche so that the myth of the alpha dog is still current and still causes dogs to be abused. Studies that are almost as old that form the basis for non-aversive training of all sorts of animals – including dogs and humans – still have not trickled down to the far corners of the murkier aspects of the dog world.

Some aspects of the origin of the domestic dog are still controversial but one thing we have known for a while: the dog domesticated itself probably approximately 15,000 – 30,000 years ago, possibly in China, then in the Arctic, then in the fertile crescent.

The great Charles Darwin knew that domestication caused outwards changes in plants and animals; he wrote two volumes on the subject. However, it was the unprecedented longitudinal study of silver foxes by Dimitri Konstantinovich Belayev that proved that, in essence, selecting for tameness alone produced foxes that began to resemble collies more and more with each succeeding generation. Floppy ears, piebald coats, smaller skulls (and brains), shorter muzzles and curly tails all came along for free.

Now new research has shown that this occurs in mice too and one of the indicators of tameness was the appearance of white hairs in the coat. Unlike the silver fox fur experiment, the researchers were not intervening in the way that the mice lived their lives other than to release the initial population of 12 mice into an uninhabited barn where they would come into contact with humans. The mice were free to come and go as they pleased through specially constructed “mouse doors” that provided protection from predators and access to freely available food. In just a few generations, the mice became more and more habituated to humans, even running over their feet, and white hairs appeared in their coats, whilst their heads became smaller.

This study is important for dogs because it provides further proof that dogs initially self-domesticated. Along with genetic evidence that points to a now extinct mega fauna wolf as the progenitor of the dog on the hearth, it further removes dogs from the myth that early man tamed wolf cubs until they evolved into a dog. Experiment after experiment has always failed to produce tame wolves: they always revert to the wild, although they can be socialised.

So, as it bears repeating until finally the myths are scotched for ever:

  • No dog on the planet is related directly to any wolf on the planet
  • 13 basal “breeds” of dog evolved without intervention from man but no modern dog can be traced back directly to these evolutions
  • Dogs do not live in packs, although they, like wolves and humans, are social animals
  • Dogs to not breed in alpha and beta pairings because, unlike wolves, they are fertile all year round
  • Dogs do have distinct personalities that may favour one type of behaviour in the majority of circumstances
  • The way that a dog behaves is not just down to genetics and inherited temperament but varies with many environmental factors.

Repeat after me: “DOGS ARE NOT PROTO-WOLVES. DOGS ARE NOT SEEKING TO DOMINATE YOU – OR ANYTHING ELSE – FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIVES. DOGS DO NOT NEED TO BE PUNISHED.”

Once you really, truly believe this, distribute the information to as many dog-punishers as possible and remember that mice helped you to get there.

Kung Hei Fat Choy

Today marks the start of the lunar new year as celebrated across Asia and the diaspora. The lunar new year marked the start of preparations for a new growing season and is based on the moon’s orbit around the earth rather than the western calendar that is calculated according to the earth’s orbit around the sun. Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Legend tells that the Chinese new year traditions started because villagers drove out the marauding Nian using firecrackers and red lanterns as his winter hunger caused him to eat livestock and villagers. The Jade Emperor, the first Chinese deity, sent an immortal being into man’s world to select twelve guards for his palace. The animals set off towards the Heavenly Gate, determined to be chosen. Rat got up very early but had to stop at a river. He noticed Ox about to cross the river and hitched a ride on Ox’s ear to win first place. The Year of the Rat starts the 12 and 60 year cycle. Tiger and Rabbit came third and fourth. Good-looking Dragon and crafty Snake came next. Kind and modest Horse and Goat followed with Monkey tailing behind. Lastly, Rooster, Dog and Pig became the guards of the Heavenly Gate, the coming 11th in the race because he frolicked along the way due to his playful nature. According to the Chinese horoscope and the Taoist tradition, each animal is either yin or yang. Each in turn is mitigated by fire, earth, metal, wood or water. 2018 is the year of the yang earth dog. The Hour of the Dog is 19.00 to 21.00 and the dog is associated with the ninth lunar month.

There are many myths and legends involving dogs in Chinese culture and various ethnic groups claim to have had a divine dog as a forebear and dogs accompanied and assisted various legendary heroes. Several peoples preserve a myth that a dog provided humans with the first grain seeds, thus enabling the seasonal cycle of planting, harvesting and replanting. The black dog is also a metaphor for a meteor and is thought to eat the sun or moon during an eclipse. In northern China, paper images of dogs were thrown into water during the Duanwu Festival celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month to drive away evil spirits. Paper dogs were also used to protect the dead.

Although not proven conclusively, it is thought that the dog may have first evolved as a domestic animal in China, followed by two major evolutions of the northern basal breeds and then those from the fertile crescent. The Shar Pei and Chow Chow are some of the earliest dogs to have evolved from a now extinct mega-fauna wolf in Asia.

Dogs have mixed cultural associations in China and are, of course still used as a food animal; dog meat restaurants exist in most major cities. As China becomes a wealthier nation, there has been a steep rise in the number of dogs kept solely as companion animals with has been reported that overzealous enforcers confiscate and kill large dogs that have been deemed to have been owned illegally. There are no national welfare or anti-cruelty laws and consequently no prosecutions for mistreatment. Mass culls of dogs still take place when an rabies outbreak occurs. Before we rush to condemn these practices, we should remember that animal welfare legislation covering both companion and food animals in the UK does not prevent suffering and that much legislation is simply not policed or enforced where dogs are concerned. Rabies is largely limited to some bats in Scotland, although of course, all that can change with illegal imports continuing in huge numbers below the radar.

So 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Caution in financial dealings is advised by the CLSA Feng Shui Index. Others predict (not surprisingly) a year of social change and many uprisings throughout the world, but apparently it is worse when the dog year is a Yang Metal year.

Whether you have any truck with these beliefs or not, Happy New (Dog) Year to all and here is my wish list for dogs in 2018:

  • Vastly more resources put into educating owners to improve all aspects of welfare
  • Actual policing and enforcing of all statutes involving dogs
  • The introduction of compulsory domestic passports with mandatory neutering, vaccination and effective worming added to mandatory chipping unless certified as contra-indiciated by a registered veterinary surgeon
  • The cessation of sales of dogs (and all live animals) via websites such as eBay, Gumtree and Pets4Homes
  • The effective policing of canine imports and a ban on importing “rescue” dogs.

What’s on your list?

Scotland Sees Sense – Now Come On England

After an outcry when Scotland effectively considered creating a “qualification” in administering electric shocks to dogs in the name of training, MSPs have backtracked and Scotland has issued draft guidance with the aim of advising against the use of shock collars.

Whilst an outright ban would have been preferable, this is still good news for the approximately 820,000 dogs in Scotland and the approximately 590,000 dogs in Wales that are already protected by a ban. The approximately 7.5 million dogs in England and the six counties of Northern Ireland are still waiting.

Of course, even a UK ban would on be the tip of the iceberg in preventing punishment being meted out to dogs on a daily basis by ignorant owners and “trainers”. It would be a great start though.

Shocking Decision from Scotland

Maurice Golden MSP, a long-time supporter of the campaign to have electric shock collars banned, said: “Electric shock collars are harmful and have no place in modern dog training. The advice from academia, dog behaviourists and trainers is clear – electrocuting dogs does not help train them.

Scotland could have joined Wales where there is a ban in leading the way in welfare but instead has effectively promoted abuse that is lietrally and figuratively shocking.

Sign the petition to ban shock collars in the UK: https://www.change.org/p/the-scottish-government-ban-electric-shock-collars-in-scotland

In November 2016, the Scottish Government published a consultation on potential controls or prohibition of electronic shock devices in Scotland covering collars and fences and sound, vibration and spray collars. Four proposals were adviocated: retain the unregulated status quo; develop guidance or a statutory welfare code; develop regulations on the use of electronic collars and ban the use of electronic collars. 1,032 responses were received:

60% were from Scotland and 26% from the remainder of the UK. 64% were from companion animal owners, 13% from trainers, 7% from the general public, 4% from animal welfare professionals, 4% from behaviourists, 3% from veterinary staff, 2% from owners of working dogs and 1% from animal care professinals. Unsurprisingly, animal care and animal welfare respondents were opposed to the use of electronic devices: pet suppliers and owners of working dogs were supportive. Owners were fairly evenly divided.

Again unsusprisingly, professionals involved in welfare cited learning theory and scientific evidence in support of the ineffectiveness of the devices, not to mention the cruelty, whilst supporters relied largely on their own perceptions of how the devices worked. 3 in 10 reposndents complained that their business would be
affected by a ban or stricter regulations on static pulse collars. However “The most frequently identified possible effect was dealing with fewer animals
suffering from the negative effects of having been trained with an electronic training aid”. An interesting result given the relatively small number of behaviourists responding.

Scotland however has decided not to ban the use of aversive collars but to introduce regulations that would include a new qualification for up to 100 dog trainers across the country to enable them to promote and use shock collars on dogs. The UKKC state that “…the Scottish Government has been meeting with the Electric Shock Collars Manufacturers Association and dog trainers in Scotland who currently use shock collars, yet has not had any meetings with any of the professional dog training associations who oppose the use of electric training devices”.

There is no legislation in Scotland regarding the manufacture of electronic devices. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also undertook research into the use of electric shock collars in dog training (Cooper et al 2010a and Cooper et al 2010b). The authors conducted an internet search in 2007 and discovered more than 170 different models of e-collars available for purchase in the UK. New collars were bought online and one was found to be counterfeit. It was included in the survey because “…as it is obtainable in the UK and was possibly attractive due to its low price”. The collars had up to four functions controlled from a radio control handset: a tone signal, a vibration signal, a short electrical stimulus lasting between 4 and 500mS, and a continuous stimulus lasting for as long as the appropriate button on the controller is pressed, but usually time-limited. The energy dissipated by the e-collars when set to their most powerful level was found to be 81 times greater than that dissipated with the e-collars set to their least powerful level. The electrical output of the e-collars depended on the impedance presented by the dogs’ neck and differed according to whether the dog was wet or dry. “There were considerable differences between tested e-collar models in the voltages, the number of pulses in, and length of each stimulus, but little variation within individual models of e-collars. The peak voltage delivered by e-collars varied significantly with the resistance of the dog, from as much as 6000V at 500kΩ to 100V at 5kΩ”.

The collars are sold with manuals but, the study found that although collar operation was explained clearly, information on using the e-collar in training varied widely. Some suggested using the e-collar before introducing a command, some advised never to use a command and others advised it in specific circumstances. Most advice suggested application of continuous stimuli until the dog showed the desired response. There was little advice on when the momentary stimulus could be used and manuals advocated training at the perception threshold or above. One manual advised the owner to start “at least in the middle of the intensity range” for “serious” unwanted behaviour such as chasing livestock. “Behavioural signs indicative of the appropriate level ranged from the expression of specific behaviours such as attention redirection, to ‘outward signs of discomfort or confusion’. The latter is ambiguous and may be interpreted by inexperienced users as also including behaviours which occur at a high level of stimulation”. Only three manuals mentioned that if the dog vocalises when the collar is used, the level is too high. A follow-up questionnaire completed by owners showed that “Advice in manuals was not always taken up by end-users…”

The authors concluded that the “…project has highlighted the very variable outcomes between individual dogs when trained using e-collars…The combination of
differences in individual dogs’ perception of stimuli, different stimulus strength and characteristics from collars of different brands, differences between momentary and continuous stimuli, differences between training advice in manuals, differences in owner understanding of training approaches and how owners use the devices in a range of different circumstances are likely to lead to a wide range of training experiences for pet dogs…Thus it seems reasonable to conclude that the previous use of e-collars in training is associated with behavioural and physiological responses that are consistent with negative emotional states.

The use of e-collars in training dogs has been proven to lead to a negative impact on welfare. Stress as measured by cortisol levels, was higher at a baseline level in dogs trained using an e-collar suggesting, as with Schilder’s and van der Borg’s study (2004), that stress remained high even when the electric collar was not in use.

A follow up study (Cooper et al 2010b) compared two groups of dogs trained by trainers from the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association, one with use of e-collars and one without, and a group trained by Association of Pet Dog Trainers members without aversive training of any kind. “In this context dogs showed responses to e-collar stimuli which were clearly discernible…and showed changes in behaviour and physiology that other studies have interpreted as indications of aversive arousal or anxiety…no trainers assessed the dog’s sensitivity to collars prior to training, either choosing a setting they expected to be effective, or checking that the collar was operational using a low but detectable setting, then choosing a pre-determined higher setting for association with sheep chasing”. Dogs in the APDT group “…engaged in more environmental interaction such as sniffing…were less often observed yawning…spent less time tense during training sessions…had their tail in a low position less often and …moved away from the trainer less often”. Dogs in the group trained using e-collars “…yelped more …and panted more…” than dogs in the other groups.

There has been no evaluation into the effects of use of shock collars by inexperienced people nor to the long-term effects in the animals subjected to shocking, for instance to evaluate the extent to which it damages the human-animal bond and/or results in learned helplessness. In a study (Schilder et al 2004) that compared groups of guard dogs trained using electric shock collars, the authors concluded “… that being trained is stressful, that receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs, and that the S-dogs [shocked dogs] evidently have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context. This suggests that the welfare of these shocked dogs is at stake, at least in the presence of their owner”.

This study was the first to look at long-term effects of shock collars in training and demonstrated clearly that the association made with the shock was linked with the handler. This makes for ineffective training because even if the dog makes an association with the undesirable behaviour occurring at the time that the shock is administered (which is totally dependent on the precision of the timing), it has also been demonstrated to be made also some time afterwards with the handler. There is every possibility that this could result in learned helplessness on the part of the dog, robbing it of all mechanisms of self-preservation when it is expected to work in life-threatening situations or at least ones where the prospect of injury is much higher than with a companion dog.

So the very person that the dog should be able to trust and who should guide him through training is clearly associated with fear, pain and punishment, none of which are conducive to learning.

Using punishment of any sort – throwing metal rings at dogs, puffing air or water in their faces, jerking leads and shouting – not only stop the dog from learnign and damage the relationship between handler and dog, they are useless for teaching alternative behaviour. In fact, evidence shows that they create even more unwanted behaviours, including serious redirected aggression.

Cooper J et al (2010a) Effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs, DEFRA Research AW1402 [accessed online 16/8/2017 http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=11167_AW1402SID5FinalReport.pdf]

Cooper J et al (2010b) Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems on the welfare of domestic dogs; field study of dogs in training, DEFRA Research AW1402A [accessed online 16/8/2017 http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=11168_AW1402aSID5FinalReport.pdf]

Schilder MBH et al (2004) Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, V85(3–4), pp 319-334

Sentience and Sensibility

It is probably fair to say that those who voted to leave Europe had absolutely no idea of the implications of their actions and, let’s face it, those who voted to remain probably didn’t in any detail either. Well, the pigeons are coming home to roost thick and fast now.

As far as the EU Withdrawal Bill is concerned, those pigeons are designated as not being sentient. An amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to transfer the EU protocol on animal sentience into UK law was defeated by 313 votes to 295 in a Parliamentary vote and MPs have argued that both farm and domestic animals are covered by existing legislation, some of which goes beyond EU protocols. There has been widespread outcry from various quarters to this decision, but it easy to have a knee-jerk reaction as we well know, otherwise we would not be in this position in the first place.

The existence and degree of sentience across the animal kingdom is a long way from being fully understood, let alone agreed upon, but few would dispute its existence in the major species that could be affected by the UK’s decision to drop the designation from its legislation. Michael Gove has hinted that specific UK legislation may be tigtened, including a promise to crack down on puppy farming.

At the end of the day, all the legislation in the world cannot protect animals from harm unless it is policed and prosecuted where breaches occur. Many of the more than 50 statutes that supposedly protect dogs alone are routinely breached and that includes statutes that could prevent puppy farming. Let’s face it, the Kennel Club did nothing when one of its members, a prominent breeder and show competitor was exposed as a puppy farmer and it continues to register puppy farmned dogs. If the organisation that purports to care about the welfare of all dogs does nothing, there is little hope in a climate of austerity and maximising profits for the few that much will be done. Whatever government is in office in the near future will have its hands full coping wityh the effects of leaving the EU; puppy farming will only become a priority if it is seen as being politically expedient or as a smokescreen for “burying bad news”.