Many of us in the Royal Town are deeply attached to our pets. Indeed, I know from my postbag that many of my constituents last year were very concerned about lenient sentencing for animal cruelty. I am pleased that the Government will bring forward legislation in response to these concerns, and increase punishments for the most horrific acts of animal cruelty to five years.
In the same spirit, I am proud to support the ban on the sale and use of electric shock collars in England.
Like many of my constituents I am a dog owner, but you do not have to own a pet to understand that electric shock collars are both cruel and unnecessary. These devices are increasingly marketed and sold as training aids - and they work by instilling fear of punishment in an animal.
It was heart wrenching to learn that some collars have the capacity to continuously shock a dog for up to 11 seconds at a time and that dogs responded by yelping and crouching.
Let us be clear, a dog cannot understand when or why it is being shocked and this can cause immense distress. Indeed, there is no evidence that shock devices deliver better and more effective results than using positive methods for training. In fact, many dogs exhibit worsened behaviour as a result.
Electric shock collars are already banned in Wales, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany and in some states in Australia. Scotland also intends follow suit. Yet, in England they are readily available to buy at the click of a button.
We Brits have long enjoyed the reputation of being a nation of pet lovers – we spend around £4 billion a year on our beloved pets and we were the first country in the world to start a welfare charity for animals, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, known today as the RSPCA after being granted royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840. (Some 312 years after our Royal Town!)
It therefore seems a bit bizarre that in the 21st century - shock collars are still legal in the UK. It is equally obscene to justify sending large numbers of volts to a dog’s neck for it to display desirable behaviour – I know from personal experience that this can equally be achieved by rewarding desirable behaviour with praise, toys and treats.
The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, is widely expected to announce a consultation on outlawing use of any collars on cats and dogs which deliver an electric shock. And I, for one, will be supporting the ban.
STOP PRESS: My Annual Report should go through every door in the Royal Town before the end of the month, courtesy of the Royal Mail.
I do hope you will find it of interest. It comes to you at no cost to the taxpayer since the whole cost is met by local Conservatives.