Wales chose to ban the use of remote training aids, largely on the advice of Mr David Ryan (then chair of the APBC) who condemned remote training devices.
Here’s what Mr Ryan told the Welsh Parliamentary Assembly, in his wholly anecdotal (and incredibly biased) report (Dec. 2007) – In this instance, relating specifically to the use of remote training aids for cats ..
“Due to their ethology and particular sensitivity, punishment by any kind of device is not appropriate in modifying feline behaviour. Any form of punishment invariably increases anxiety and fear. Feline ethology is such that their primary response is flight and avoidance; which may remain specific or generalise, and unrelated neurotic behaviours in the cat easily occur, including reduced capacity to cope with social contacts”
Got that? … “Invariably increases anxiety and fear” … “punishment by any kind of device is not appropriate” …. “Unrelated neurotic behaviours .. Including reduced capacity to cope” ..
Below, is a 2016 study by the University of Lincoln in respect of the use of electronic containment systems, E-collar fences basically, where gardens have a perimeter wire placed around them and the cat wears a collar. As the cat approaches the boundary wire, a tone or pulse is given by the collar, which serves as a warning, followed by a static correction if the cat continues towards the boundary …
“Modern devices train the cats to associate a warning beep with the location of the invisible fence. As a consequence animals may be able to quickly and efficiently learn appropriate avoidance behaviours, without persistent anxiety or fear of a shock.
The scientists undertook a range of behaviour tests designed to assess the mood and anxiety of cats and found that, if anything, those contained with electronic boundary systems appeared more confident when it came to new experiences.”
Just to recap … “Quickly and efficiently learn appropriate avoidance behaviours without persistent anxiety or fear …. Appeared more confident when it came to new experiences”
Now then … You tell me? …. Since they cannot BOTH be right, one of the two conclusions and recommendations is obviously incorrect! The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), insist on academic standing (Honours degree and above) and postgraduate experience of 2-3 years working alongside a veterinary practise. Being veterinary referred, they’re obviously well educated and ought to know their subject inside and out, right? They ought not really make sweeping generalisations, assumptions or claims, such as “Any form of punishment invariably increases anxiety and fear”, without concrete, undeniable evidence to support those claims, surely? **Incidentally, when your child runs around with her laces undone, trips on one and falls and grazes her knee, then in the ‘scientific’ sense, provided she makes sure that they are done tightly thereafter, ‘running with loose laces’ has been technically punished, and she’s now ‘avoiding’ a repeat punishment by learning that she’s better off with tight laces** … But according to the APBC, “Any form of punishment invariably increases anxiety and fear”? – Is the child now anxious? Does she spend her playtime in fear?
The APBC again, appear to be at substantial odds with the University of Lincoln in relation to electronic containment systems!
Remember, The University writes that:
“If anything, those [cats] contained within the boundary systems appeared more confident when it came to new experiences”
Mr Ryan of the APBC however, stated:
“Fence containment systems should not be allowed even though the animal is able to move away from the fence. …
Whilst all electric shock devices are prone to the dog failing to associate the intended stimulus with the punishment, containment systems are particularly disposed to the dog associating the pain with an unintended stimulus. When a dog approaches a boundary, it does so for a reason. It may be greeting visitors or defending the property against a perceived intrusion by another dog. If it receives a shock as it does so, the shock will be associated with the most relevant stimulus present in the dog’s mind at the time. It may therefore associate the pain not with approaching the boundary, but with visitors or passing dogs, resulting in subsequent fear and aggression towards those stimuli.”
*[note also, how all parties simply use the term ‘electric shock’, whilst none have taken the time to elaborate on the term, leaving anyone without first hand experience to know no difference between placing a battery to one’s tongue, a muscle stimulation belt to one’s abdomen, or corporal punishment electrodes to one’s shaven head]
Again, for an association of such academic achievement, operating via direct referral of such a trusted body of professionals as veterinarians, then one would certainly expect statements presented as facts, to be beyond inaccurate, untrue and scaremongering tactics such as
“When a dog approaches a boundary, it does so for a reason. It may be greeting visitors or defending the property against a perceived intrusion by another dog. If it receives a shock as it does so, the shock will be associated with the most relevant stimulus present in the dog’s mind at the time. It may therefore associate the pain not with approaching the boundary, but with visitors or passing dogs, resulting in subsequent fear and aggression towards those stimuli”
Unless of course, the University findings that the [cats] were “Without persistent anxiety or fear” and “More confident when it came to new experiences” were simply, wrong?
For those who might not be aware, pet containment systems save lives. That’s why people buy and use them. Not because they get a kick out of startling their pets – (they could fill that criteria at FAR lesser cost) – No, the reason pet containment systems are installed, is because the owners wish to keep their animals, other people’s animals (including stock and livelihoods) and potentially innocent motorists SAFE. They want to permit the animal freedom, whilst simultaneously ensuring welfare. These are owner who recognise the fact that doors sometimes swing open, leads can get dropped, kids don’t always close doors behind themselves and that one single error could cost the animal it’s life or physical wellbeing.
These people CARE about welfare.
One final point on pet containment systems .. One which again, serves to highlight either the ignorance, the naivety or the dishonesty of the APBC in their 2007 paper …
Quality electronic containment systems follow a pretty simple procedure. realising that it would be wholly unfair to simply hide a wire and have the animal try and guess through correction, where the boundary lies, the kits contain multiple, clearly visible flags.
Now a flag isn’t something that most pet animals will encounter a great deal in a natural environment, and that fact is used to the owner’s advantage – As a ‘visible’ boundary.
The flags are placed along the boundary line, and the animal is ‘taught’, that approaching the flags results in a negative experience, an unpleasant consequence, a startle, a ‘shock’.
Done correctly, this novel stimulus [the flag] rapidly assumes “avoid it” status, and the animal maintains a healthy distance whenever a flag is in close proximity. Over time, the flags can be gradually removed, with the animal ‘remembering’ the areas it has learned to avoid …. Ta Da … Invisible containment system.
Now this is what the APBC wrote in respect of pet containment systems:
“The difference between electric boundary containment systems and electric stock fences, as used by farmers to control large livestock, is that the stock fence invariably follows a visible boundary, or is highlighted by white tape, so the animals can see it clearly. The arbitrary invisible boundary defined by an electric containment system does not provide a visible reason for the dog to understand why the shock happened. Animals understand that things they touch can be painful; thorns or sharp rocks exist in their environment. It is very easy for them to learn that something they brush up against should be avoided.”
A reminder of a key criticism of containment systems from the APBC:
“When a dog approaches a boundary, it does so for a reason. If it receives a shock as it does so, the shock will be associated with the most relevant stimulus present in the dog’s mind at the time.”
And yet the ‘acceptable’ endorsement for farm animals?:
“The difference between electric boundary containment systems and electric stock fences, as used by farmers to control large livestock, is that the stock fence invariably follows a visible boundary”
So then I ask you, if that visible boundary is a hedgerow, yet ‘shock’ is associated with “the most relevant stimulus present in the [animal’s] mind at the time”, then why are we not seeing millions of sheep, horses, cattle and pigs, literally terrified of hedgerows, or aggressing towards trees? Farm hedgerows invariably contain roosting or resting birds, often singing or cawing .. By the logic of the APBC, we ought also, to have farm animals showing signs of increased anxiety when they see or hear, birdsong. BUT … As you are no doubt aware, this simply ISN’T the case. Birds land amongst a herd of cattle, and what do the cattle do? – They continue to graze. Horses will stick their heads THROUGH the strands of electronic tape in order to eat what’s on offer on the other side!
And what of electric chicken fencing? Fencing designed to keep the contained animal safe, by virtue of the fact that the approaching predator receives unpredictable electronic correction – again, ‘shock’ if you like? Where is the ethical army in this instance? Why is the argument for the fox, rat or badger, any less important on welfare grounds, than the argument for the domestic pet?
Interesting isn’t it! .. You see, the REAL differences between farm stock containmnmet systems and PET containment systems, are that farm containment fences:
(a) Have a HELL of a lot more energy potential – ‘SHOCK’ if you like.
(b) Will punish ANY animal that happens to come into contact with them
(c) Do NOT carry the same emotive strength as an animal which people consider to be part of their family – Despite the fact that each are living, sentient beings
(d) Neither farmers, nor veterinary referred ‘behaviourists’, are ever likely to exchange (or pay for) behavioural concerns over a cow straying onto a lane
(e) Banning electronic stock fencing for agricultural animals in Wales, would go down like a shit panini – Sideways …
As I say … Ignorance, naivety or dishonesty?
The lack of genuine understanding is disturbing regardless – Especially when laws which affect hundreds of thousands of animal’s welfare are passed on the strength of it.