"It is good that these outdated punishment techniques may no longer be used"
30 March 2022 - GAIA and the animals have won yet another victory, as it is now forbidden to use or sell shock collars in Flanders. The Flemish Parliament unanimously approved this ban today. GAIA was satisfied with this decision: the animal rights organisation has worked hard to bring about a ban on these cruel and outdated implements, abuses of which are legion.
In early March, the Animal Welfare Committee of the Flemish Parliament unanimously backed the initiative put forward by the Minister of Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts (N-VA), to ban the use and sale of shock collars. This evening, the Flemish Parliament adopted the draft decree unanimously (104 votes in favour, no abstentions and no votes against).
GAIA President Michel Vandenbosch comments, "Practice shows that abuses are legion. It was therefore necessary to draw a clear line. We agree with Minister Ben Weyts that outdated punishment techniques must make way for more animal-friendly and civilised reward-based methods to prevent and correct undesirable and disruptive behaviour in pets. It is good that the Flemish Parliament is now opting for the animal-friendly option of reward methods."
As of 1 January 2027, it will be illegal to either use or sell shock collars, which are sometimes used to punish dogs for barking. This ban will also apply to shock collars for cats. "A pet is part of your family and you don't give a family member an electric shock", as minister Weyts aptly put it.
During the transitional period, which will last until 2027, authorities currently using shock collars to train animals can switch to animal-friendly alternatives, of which there are plenty.
No exception has been made for the army, police or behavioural therapists. The ban will therefore be generally applicable. Specialists have long since abandoned the idea that you can only train or correct animals by using aggressive aversion techniques. Scientists have even warned that using punishment-based training methods may have negative consequences.
Animal Welfare Council
Minister Weyts partly based this decision on the advice he received from the Flemish Animal Welfare Council, which advises the minister on animal welfare issues. Within the Council, GAIA was a strong advocate for a ban on both the use and sale of shock collars.
The Animal Welfare Division of the Flemish Region's Department of Environment also carried out a survey among some 2,700 dog behavioural therapists, trainers, dog school employees and hunters. The survey revealed that the vast majority of behavioural therapists are in support of a ban on shock collars.
Collars that are linked to an invisible fence are still allowed. Animals wearing this type of collar can act on their own initiative to avoid an electric shock by staying within the perimeters of the fence. In contrast, animals wearing training collars and anti-bark collars have no control over the shocks they receive.
GAIA President Michel Vandenbosch comments, "We would have preferred a total ban, including one on systems with invisible fences. Research has shown that these collars do not deter some dogs, whose urges are too strong. But this is a justifiable and honourable compromise. We are particularly pleased that the ban extends beyond use and that it will no longer be permitted to sell electric collars once the ban enters into effect. GAIA had strongly urged this. Banning the use of shock collars without a ban on selling them would have been an empty gesture."