An open letter from Dr Karen Overall regarding the use of shock collars.


Date: Tue Dec 6, 2005 4:01:19 PM US/Eastern

No, I have not changed my opinion and it is that there is never any reason
for pets to be shocked as a part of therapy or treatment. If anything, I
have strengthened this opinion. There are now terrific scientific and
research data that show the harm that shock collars can do behaviorally. At
the July 2005 International Veterinary Behavior Meeting, held in conjunction
with the AVSAB and ACVB research meetings, data were presented by E.
Schalke, J. Stichnoth, and R. Jones-Baade that documented these damaging
effects (Stress symptoms caused by the use of electric training collars on
dogs (Canis familiaris) in everyday life situations. Current Issues and
Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, Papers presented at the 5th
Int'l IVBM. Purdue University Press, 2005:139-145. [ISBN 987-1-55752-409-5;
1-558753-409- 8]).

This follows on the excellent work done by Dutch researchers, in cooperation
with their working dog groups and trainers, that showed that working /
patrol dogs were adversely affected by their 'training' with shock, long
after the shock occurred (Schilder MBH, van der Borg JAM. Training dogs
with the help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2003;85:319-334).

Research meetings can be attended by anyone paying the fee, and most
published work is available either in the public domain, from an
organization, or from someone with a university library connection.

There is no longer a reason for people to remain misinformed. Let me make
my opinion perfectly clear: Shock is not training - in the vast majority of
cases it meets the criteria for abuse. In my patient population, dogs who
have been 'treated' with shock have a much higher risk of an undesirable
outcome (e.g., euthanasia) than dogs not subjected to shock, and I never
recommend euthanasia. In all situations where shock has been used there is
some damage done, even if we cannot easily see it. No pet owner needs to
use this technique to achieve their goal. Dogs who cease to exhibit a
problem behavior usually also cease to exhibit normal behaviors. The only
data available support the idea that shock is neither an effective nor
suitable training tool.

That said, it's time we replaced everyone's personal mythologies and
opinions with data and scientific thinking. Such opportunities are now
available, but are often not exploited.

For example, the statement: " Major veterinary universities have tested E-
collars since the mid 60's when they were invented. No evidence of any
damage, Physiological or psychological has ever been found." is patently and
wholly false. For the evidence re: data - see above. As for the initial
statement - it's WRONG. It's a MYTH. The specialty college (ACVB) even
conducted a census a few years ago to see if we could find ANY truth to this
and there was NONE. We couldn't get anyone to say that they had - or knew
someone who had - participated in such tests and studies. This pattern of
behavioral repetition is representative of the danger of myth, and also of
the power of the scientific method. Science tells you when you are wrong.
Myth allows you to steal credibility where none is earned. That particular
myth has damaged universities too long, and it has traded on the reputations
of people who neither endorsed that decision, nor supported the finding, and
it must stop.

I hope this helps. I have never thought we could get via electricity what
we couldn't get by advanced training and hard work.

Karen L. Overall, M.A., V.M.D., Ph.D.