Shocking NewsPosted by Dana Campbell, ALDF Attorney on July 13th, 2009
A recent news story caught my eye and I haven’t been able to stop considering its implications. Here’s the story: A man in Salem, Oregon was arrested and charged with four counts First Degree Criminal Mistreatment for “putting an electric dog collar on each of his four children and shocking them,” according to the Salem Statesman Journal newspaper. The paper claimed the father told police that he would chase the 3-year-old boy around with the collar, making him cry at the thought of being shocked, and that because of the boy’s reaction, it was likely the children were shocked more than once. The children ranged in age from 3 to 9 and have been removed to their mother’s custody. The case is still pending.
You know where I’m going with this, right? If it’s so outrageous and incomprehensible that a man would put a shock collar on his children and later use it to taunt them – and it is without a doubt all of that – why is the public not similarly outraged by its use on family dogs? We may not all agree, yet, that bugs or crustaceans feel pain, but we are well past the point where we all agree that dogs feel pain, otherwise the whole premise of a shock collar – using pain avoidance to stay within a certain perimeter – would fail. So why is it a crime to inflict most types of pain onto companion animals, but shock collars get a pass?
Maybe it’s because the pain caused by the shock is perceived to be insignificant enough to warrant condemnation. A shock collar manufacturer quoted in the article was not reassuring. He claimed the 9-volt battery used in most collars would not have hurt the children to the point of damaging organs(!) or causing them to be hospitalized, saying it was less powerful than a police Taser (which have been known to kill people from time to time). So that’s the threshold for acceptability? He claims the collars “made today” would not burn a dog or human; however, here at ALDF, I have seen many photos of dogs burned by shock collars. Perhaps they have improved since I saw those photos, but I remain skeptical. The manufacturer then concluded by stating that the collars are not to be used on humans. Yet they are very widely sold for use on dogs, most of whom weigh the same or less than small children.
Curious, but not brave enough to try it myself, I surveyed my more adventurous male friends thinking one of them must have tried a shock collar on themselves on a dare or out of their own curiosity, and I was right. One fellow, a stocky former wrestler well over 6-feet-tall described the shock from the collar as: “painful, definitely uncomfortable, and not something I’d ever want to do again.”
I’d like to see that inhumane father punished by electroshock, and then I’d like to see these collars shunned by the public as an outrage and outlawed in violation of every state’s animal cruelty laws. Pain is pain, and it’s illegal to hurt any of our loved ones. Or rather, it should be.