In November 2011, the City of Alexandria, VA amended their leash ordinance, City Code Section 5-7-35: “Keeping dogs under physical restraint.” Under the new ordinance, Electronic/Shock Collars no longer count as “leashes” or “physical restraint.” Unfortunately, the new law is under review because of citizen complaints during a Public Meeting. The following is my letter to the Alexandria Government to reinstate the amendment to exclude Electronic/Shock Collars:
Dear Mayor Euille, Vice Mayor Donley and City Council Members:
While employed as a Dog Daycare Manager, a new client asked me, “Do you want my dog to wear her E-Collar?” At the time, I did not know what an E-collar was, so I asked. “It administers an electric shock for unwanted behavior,“ the client explained. “Our dog trainer told us to use it to control her barking.” Dismayed at the idea of shocking an animal during safe and monitored off-leash play, or using it at all, I responded, “Absolutely not.”
Flabbergasted that this product existed, I researched Electronic Collars, also known as Shock Collars; I was stunned that the use of Shock Collars was extremely controversial, with seemingly as many proponents as opponents.
The City of Alexandria’s amendment to City Code Section 5-7-35 “Keeping dogs under physical restraint” to exclude Electronic/Shock Collars as “leashes” or “physical restraint” is a paramount and humane improvement in protecting the safety of our canine companions and the public.
In a telephone conversation with Adam Goldfarb, Director of Pet Care Issues for the Humane Society of the United States, Mr. Goldfarb’s first comment regarding Shock Collars was, “We don’t like them.” Mr. Goldfarb emphasized, “Traditional leashes and harnesses made of nylon, for example, guarantee a security that a shock collar cannot.”
“When a dog sees something he wants like a squirrel, cat, or another dog he will go after it.” Goldfarb elaborated, “Whatever a dog is chasing, a shock collar does not guarantee the dog will stay close to a person.” Goldfarb stated, “Administering a low or high intensity shock to the neck of a dog causes pain.”
Additionally, Goldfarb commented on Electronic Fencing systems in which an underground wire around an area uses shock collars to transmit an electric current to the dog’s neck if the dog comes near the perimeter of the invisible fence. Electronic Fences do not assure a dog will not flee from the yard. Ultimately, using pain to control your dog can lead to severe fearful or aggressive behavior.
World-renown veterinarian, animal behaviorist, author, and expert in modern psychological dog training and behavior counseling, Dr. Ian Dunbar PhD, BVetMed MRCVS, discussed the use of Shock Collars in a coast-to-coast telephone discussion, providing his professional opinion.
“Shock collars are absolutely unsuitable for the general public,” Dr. Dunbar said. “Most people try to use it to control their dogs off-leash.” Dr. Dunbar stated, “Shock collars are not a magic pill.” Comparatively, “With proper training, Voice Control is one hundred times more efficient.”
Dr. Dunbar, whose internationally followed, science-based, positive Lure-Reward training for puppies and adult dogs has replaced outdated and cruel training methods using choke-chains, prong collars, shock collars and physical force, elucidated, “Averse stimulus is not instructive.” Dr. Dunbar affirmed, “Depending on the setting, the shock collar is a form of harassment or abuse.” The goal of dog-training is to phase-out the training tools and rely on life-rewards. “Inexperienced handlers who use shock collars have not trained their dog.” Becoming reliant on the shock collars can develop “Learned Helplessness” in which a repeated averse stimulus traumatizes the dog and prevents any action.
“I find shock collars unnecessary,” concludes Dr. Dunbar. “I would never use them for correcting temperament or behavior problems, dogs that show signs of aggression, hyperactivity, or fear.”
In conclusion, Pat Miller, a highly esteemed Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer, who also provides training clinics and academies for trainers at her Peaceable Paws training facility in Maryland, testifies, “Shock collars give a false sense of security and control to the person pushing the button. Some dogs will continue on their mission despite the pain of the shock and the pain only aggravates and arouses them further.”
“If a dog’s intent is to approach another dog or person, not only may he continue to do so despite the shocks,” Ms. Miller says, “but his initially friendly intent, if it was that, may change to aggression as he associates the presence of the dog or person with the cause of the pain.”
“Although legal in this country, while illegal in others, shock collars are simply and completely unnecessary and inhumane.” Ms. Miller notes, “If a trainer chooses to use a legal pain-causing tool on private property, that is his or her unfortunate choice. But, it should not be approved public policy when a more humane, much safer physical leash does a far better job of protecting humans and dogs alike.”
Click here to send a letter of support to Companion Animal Law Attorney, Heidi Meinzer, who is collaborating with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria Animal Animal Control Division to reinstate the City of Alexandria’s amendment to City Code Section 5-7-35 to exclude Electronic/Shock Collars.