|Taken from the MAPAQ Guide d'application du règlement sur la sécurité et le bien-être des chats et des chiens, Article 26, page 21|
There's been lots of chatter about the news that the Quebec government agency that oversees regulation for the safety and well-being of dogs and cats (MAPAQ) has deemed electronic collars and prong collars "unacceptable" equipment as of 2013. Public reaction was initially mixed: There was some celebrating on one side and some grumbling on the other. Both sides agreed, however, that this was a pretty benign move on the government's part and that basically nothing would change out there in the real world.
And then this week it was made known that getting caught using such equipment would result in a fine of no less than $600, and that several "first warnings" had already been issued to members of the public. Whoa. The low-volume chatter quickly erupted into a full-out ballroom blitz.
I posted this announcement on my tiny Facebook page and within a day it had spread like wildfire. I received angry comments and messages from people who are clearly very upset by this news. Some insist the government is making a big mistake; that this equipment is crucial to dog training and behaviour management (it's not). Some complained that the regulation, as it is written, is unclear and difficult to decipher (it is). Some people refused to believe it at all and accused me of making the whole story up to further my own personal agenda (um, okaaaay...).
Some went so far as to predict that hundreds and even thousands of dogs in Quebec would die because their dangerous behaviour can only be corrected by this magical equipment. Unfortunately, many people still believe this fallacy. The truth is that the use of such equipment to modify aggressive behaviour will most likely exacerbate the problem in the long-run by merely suppressing behaviour and creating a dog that is a ticking time-bomb. But that's a whole other post.
My knee-jerk reaction to these people's knee-jerk reactions was initially to defend the government's decision by trying to help people understand that it was made for the right reasons. This is a good thing, people! It's okay, don't worry.... dogs won't die because of this! You CAN walk your dog without one of these collars; you CAN train a dog... any dog, any breed, any size, any behaviour... without this equipment. And you can do so with better results. No really, you can!
You would think people would be jumping all over this revelation, excited to learn of the alternatives. "We can?? Omg, show me!!" Instead, many are holding steadfastly to what they "know" works. They don't want nor accept change, and they absolutely resent it being forced on them by the government.
It reminds me of the uproar that ensued when the government started to get involved with regulating where and when people could smoke tobacco. No more smoking in schools (well, yeah... okay). No more smoking in hospitals (well, yeah... okay, I guess). No more smoking on planes (wait, what?). No more smoking in restaurants (now hold on a second...!). No more smoking in bars (you can't do that!). You know what? No more smoking in public buildings anywhere! (THE ECONOMY WILL CRASH! BUSINESSES WILL CLOSE! PEOPLE WILL LEAVE THE PROVINCE!!)
Over time, these new regulations become the norm. No-one complains about not smoking on a plane. No-one lights up defiantly in a restaurant after dessert. The economy did not crash, businesses did just fine. The world did not end, and we are all much better off for it.
This is what's happening here, I believe. This is the doom and gloom phase, the fear stage, the being-dragged-away-kicking-and-screaming chapter. One day, using gentler, smarter, more efficient methods and equipment to train an animal will be the norm, and we'll look back on the days of electronic collars and prong collars (and one day even choke collars) as the Dark Ages, the era before we were enlightened. And many will be embarrassed about how we carried on with our silly equipment.
Maya Angelou said "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
We know better now. It's time to do better. And I am giving a massive high-5 to the Quebec government for taking the first important steps.
July 29, 2014: In June 2014, the MAPAQ document referred to above was modified. The word "inacceptables" (unacceptable) was changed to "non-recommandés" (not recommended). The fines remain in place for the misuse of this equipment as outlined in the MAPAQ guide. (NT)