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Electric shock collars: New NParks guidelines stop short of restricting use of such aversive devices to train animals

Guidelines will instead highlight risks of using such devices, and recommend good training practices to be adopted by the community

A boxer dog with an electric shock training collar, an example of an aversive animal training device
A boxer dog with an electric shock training collar, an example of an aversive animal training device (Photo: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The National Parks Board (NParks) will release guidelines that highlight the risk of using aversive animal training devices, such as electric shock collars. However, these guidelines stop short of imposing restrictions on the use of such devices.

In a written parliamentary answer published on Wednesday (3 April), Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said that the guidelines will also recommend good training practices to be adopted by the community.

"Following the release of the guidelines, NParks will continue to monitor the situation before deciding if further measures are needed," he said in his reply.

"Notwithstanding this, NParks will continue to investigate and take enforcement action in cases where animal training devices cause unnecessary pain or suffering to animals, and to raise awareness on the least intrusive, minimally aversive approach to animal training."

Lee was responding to a question by Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament, Louis Ng, on whether a ban of remote electric shock collars is being considered in the guidelines.

Prior parliament debate, guidelines, and SPCA's call for ban

The issue of electric shock collars for training animals had been raised in parliament, with Ng asking in March for an update on a study conducted on the use of such collars for training animals.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How revealed in Parliament on 7 March that he had personally tested "a range of electric collars" on himself. He also said then that NParks was developing guidelines to highlight the risks of using aversive animal training devices, after considering the Rehoming Adoption Workgroup (RAWG)'s recommendations and further consultation with the community.

Tan clarified that these guidelines are recommend good practices to be adopted by the community, and are "not meant to be legally enforceable". He nonetheless said that NParks would not hesitate to investigate and take enforcement action under the Animals and Birds Act if unnecessary pain or suffering is found to be inflicted on animals.

In 2022, RAWG, comprising of NParks, animal welfare groups, veterinarians, and dog trainers, had published guidelines to standardise practices in dog rehoming, adoption, training, and behaviour rehabilitation.

Separately, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) had previously called for a ban on the use of electric shock collars, saying that its use is banned or "significantly restricted" in countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland and parts of the United Kingdom and Australia.

Last November, dog trainers and dog behaviour specialists shared their views with Yahoo Southeast Asia on whether dogs should be trained with reward or punishment and local dog training methods.

Group of dogs with owners at an obedience training class (Photo: Getty Images)
Group of dogs with owners at an obedience training class (Photo: Getty Images)

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