People living in Scotland are to be asked for their views on whether the use of canine shock collars should be restricted or even banned.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has confirmed a consultation will be published within the next few months following a number of requests for electric shock and vibration collars for animals to be banned.

It will seek views on the potential for tighter controls and an outright ban.

Mr Lochhead said the use of electronic training collars was an issue many people felt strongly about, with advocates on both sides citing animal welfare as their main concern.

“Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and we want to make sure animals kept in Scotland benefit from the highest possible standards of animal welfare,” he said.

“I have had a number of requests to ban these collars due to valid concerns about their potential misuse, but equally, I have been made aware of numerous situations where these training aids, when used properly, have greatly benefited animal welfare.

“That is why I will publish a further consultation within the next few months. This will take into account recent developments in collar technology, welfare research and mechanisms to mitigate the risks of collar use.

“The options on the table will include a ban or controls on the type of collars that may be used and how they may be used – which we have seen work in other parts of the world, for example in New Zealand and in Victoria, Australia.

“This consultation will give people across Scotland the chance to have an informed say on a range of options to ensure we protect the welfare of dogs.”

The previous Scottish Executive ran a public consultation in 2007 seeking views on whether the use or sale of electronic training devices should be prohibited or restricted. This received 164 responses, with respondents split equally on whether or not electronic collars should be banned. At that time there was limited support for regulating the use or sale of such devices.

The Welsh Assembly banned the use of electronic training collars in March 2010, while they are also banned in Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

Some countries, including New Zealand issue guidance on the use of collars in statutory dog welfare codes. Other jurisdictions, for example the Australian state of Victoria, have detailed legal requirements on the technical specification of collars and they may be used only in accordance with a statutory code of practice and under the supervision and written instructions of a veterinary practitioner or a qualified dog trainer.

In 2011, Defra-funded research into the effect of remote electronic training collars found no evidence of long-term or significant harm to dog welfare, when the collars investigated were used as per manufacturer’s instructions.

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