Did you know? It’s illegal to possess an electric collar in NSWPosted on June 1, 2020The RSPCA NSW Inspectorate wants to remind animal owners that using, selling or possessing an electric collar device – otherwise known as ‘shock collars’ or ‘barking collars’ – is an offence under Section 16 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.The maximum penalty for an offence contrary to this provision is a $27,500.00 fine for a corporation or a $5,500 fine and/or six months imprisonment in respect of an individual. Such an offence can also be dealt with by way of on the spot fines of $500 for an individual.Electric boundary systems and ‘Pingg Strings’ used to contain cats and dogs are only legal if they are used inside a fence through which dogs or cats cannot pass and that is 1.5 metres high.‘A pervasive issue’Electric collars recently seized by RSPCA NSW Inspectors.RSPCA NSW Inspector Russell is called out to cruelty complaints relating to these devices at least once a month – in some situations, finding multiple pets on one property with ‘electric barking collars’ on.Inspector Russell suggests this is due to a lack of knowledge about the devices.“I am always being advised that the person of interest had no idea that they were illegal,” Inspector Russell says. “Often I am told that they purchased them online and there was nothing on the site regarding the legality.”Invisible boundary systems are a source of confusion for owners too, Inspector Russell says. Though they can be legally sold, purchased and used in NSW, the usage stipulates ‘only if used inside a fence through which dogs cannot pass and that is at least 1.5 metres high’ (section 16, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979). Owners need to carefully consider their legal obligations before installing these devices. The onus is on the person using them to make sure that they are being used legally, and more importantly that they are not causing unnecessary pain and suffering to their pets.Electronic bird deterrent devices, used to prevent birds from roosting on the top of buildings, etc, are also illegal.Why are these collars so damaging?Owners commonly use electric collars to treat excessive barking, not realising the long and lasting impact they have on animals. For instance, electric collars occasionally cause thermal burns and, if not fitted properly or left on too long, lead to metal prongs becoming embedded in the dog’s neck.“These collars also cause psychological damage as they are punishing an anxious animal and making them more anxious,” says Dr Ann-Margret Withers, veterinarian and Senior Manager of RSPCA NSW’s Outreach Programs.“The dog’s fear of whatever is causing it to bark is often so great they will continue to bark despite the pain caused by the electric shock – this just feeds back and makes the fear and anxiety worse for the dog, causing real psychological damage.”Ann-Margret has directly treated animals who have been negatively impacted by these devices.“I have treated a Cavalier who had two types of electric devices fitted around her neck,” she says.“The poor little thing was too scared to approach the Inspector when she entered the yard to investigate, and was very shutdown when she first came into RSPCA care. She was a very traumatised little dog.”How can you humanely treat problem barking?Ann-Margret stresses that problem barking is a treatable issue – you just need to figure out why your dog is barking in the first place.“It may be a normal behaviour as barking is how a dog communicates,” she says.“Dogs bark for many reasons – play, fear, separation anxiety, frustration, environmental factors, boredom. You need to understand what is causing the dog to bark and then positively change the circumstances if possible. If this fails or your dog is anxious, seek the advice of a veterinarian to assist with a treatment program.”For more information on treating your dog’s barking, please head here.What can you do if you own an illegal electronic device?If you want to dispose of your electronic collar, contact RSPCA NSW and we will arrange for their responsible disposal.