Animal welfare is an area which the SNP takes extremely seriously. The SNP has been vocal in addressing concerns in this area at a UK level and committed in the Scottish Government’s Program for Government to take steps to strengthen animal welfare legislation to the highest possible standards.
The Scottish Government is conducting a wider review of animal welfare through the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission, a body of leading animal welfare experts which are responsible for developing evidence led expert recommendations on issues relating to animal welfare and sentience.
Current guidance by the Scottish Government on shock collars is advisory and may provide aid to both dog owners and those involved in the enforcement of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.
The Scottish Government does not condone electronic shock (static pulse) collars, electronic anti-bark collars, electronic containment systems, or any other method to inflict physical punishment or negative reinforcement. This includes the use of any device that squirts oils such as citronella or other noxious chemicals that interfere with a dog's acute sense of smell or emits any other aversive stimulus. These techniques compromise dog welfare, as they may lead to aggressive responses and worsen the problems that they aim to address by masking or aggravating underlying behavioural issues.
Under the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill passed in 2020, the maximum punitive sentence for animal cruelty in Scotland is up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine. The Bill enshrines that the Government will review current legislation on electric shock collars before the 1st of April 2025 and consider the evidence of whether shock collars ought to be prohibited to the public except in specific cases.
The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission Dog Training Working Group was established in March 2021 with a remit was to consider the matter of (aversive) training aids within the wider context of dog training and to make recommendations to Scottish Ministers on possible future legislation or guidance on dog training and dog training aids.
The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission recently concluded in April 2023 that there are more humane and more widely applied training methods such as reward-based training which are better alternatives than e-collars which risk welfare harm to dogs. Whilst for the protection of livestock, environmental controls have the potential to significantly reduce livestock predation such as close control when out walking and on a lead, which in the “view of the Commission, this is both the most appropriate and most effective approach to preventing a dog chasing or attacking livestock”.
The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission advises Scottish Ministers to prohibit the use of e-collars for the training of animals in Scotland. Scottish Government Minister will assess this Scottish Animal Welfare Commission Report and determine whether further regulation will be implemented in the future.
In England, banning e-collars was included in the 2021 DEFRA action plan for animal welfare, but since the UK Government has renegaded on all animal welfare legislative commitments such as the Kept Animals Bill, it is not yet known whether the UK Government plans to ban e-collars in England.
More generally across the UK, SNP MPs will continue to stand up for animal rights and continue to advocate for strengthening legislation and protections within law in England as is the case for Scotland.