A Dartmoor livestock protection officer is calling for dog owners to use electronic ‘shock-collars’ in order to prevent the risk of harm to moorland animals in the face of a proposed ban by the Government.

The use of e-collars on pets in helping prevent dog attacks on livestock is deemed cruel and unneccessary by the Dogs Trust and Kennel Club who say better training would be more effective and less harmful to dogs.

Dartmoor livestock protection officer Karla McKechnie believes the collars are an effective way of preventing attacks on farm and moorland cattle, sheep and ponies.

Karla said: “The issue I deal with more than any other is brutal attacks on livestock, sheep in particular, by uncontrolled, often unaccompanied, poorly trained dogs.

“Dog attacks take place on animals grazing on the moor and within enclosed fields. To be absolutely clear, these attacks are horrific. The suffering the sheep go through is long and unimaginable.

“This isn’t simply an animal welfare issue. It is an issue that directly affects the lives and the livelihoods of farmers who are already struggling to face the increased challenges of an industry under pressure. It is very rare that the owner of the dog comes forward to take responsibility.

“The number of dog attacks on sheep is not going down. It’s going up, rapidly. Already this year I have responded to 83 dog attacks and I can guarantee that there will be many more before the year is out. We’re not alone either, this is a national issue. In March this year, the National Sheep Association (NSA) reported 76% of farmers surveyed in their 2022 annual survey had reported an increase in dog attacks.

“I know many people will find this shocking, but it’s time that people woke up to the reality of what we face on and around the moor almost every day.”

The Government has legislated to ban the use of e-collars in England as of February 1 2024, however the final stage of the draft bill (the Kept Animals Bill) detailing this ban is yet to be pushed through Parliament.

Recent data released by the Kennel Club revealed that a total of 77 per cent of surveyed Brits were in favour of such devices being banned.

Karla, farmers and the National Sheep Association, however argue the converse. Karla said: “The way we approach this issue needs to change.

“To date, everything is geared towards trying to educate owners by telling them to ‘keep dogs on leads’ when near livestock or scare them with threats of heavy punishment. This is good advice but it isn’t working.

“The collar delivers a short and harmless yet startling electrical pulse to the dog when they approach sheep. When taught in a controlled way, the dog instantly learns that approaching a particular animal is a bad idea and learns to keep away because they believe it is the animal that caused the unpleasant pulse.

“They can learn to avoid that animal for years after just a couple of startles. It is no different to electric fencing or to the virtual fence e-collars that cattle and other animals now wear to keep them safe.”