Payson Approves Electronic Collars

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Any walk down a Payson neighborhood street provokes a cacophony of barking dogs or a loose mutt bounding out of its yard.

It is enough to scare any frazzled walker or biker back into the safety of their home.

The Payson Town Council last week amended the town animal code to help improve enforcement.

An at-large dog is now defined as one neither confined by a fence or leash, which includes a chain, strap or an electronic collar, also referred to as a shock collar.

The town had never before defined “leash,” leading it up for interpretation and sometimes argument.

Town Attorney Tim Wright said he and Police Chief Don Engler discussed the animal code as part of a systemic review of the entire town code. The council has approved nine other chapter updates.

The substantive change to the animal code is defining leash and including the use of electronic collars in it, Wright said.

The use of such collars is widely debated. Some argue it is cruel to shock a dog, which others say it is an effective training tool.

Councilor Ed Blair, who does not own a dog, said he was curious to find out if at least one town has banned the use of electronic collars as a form of physical restraint.

The city of Alexandria, Va. in 2012 voted to exclude electronic collars as a legal method to physically restrain dogs after an animal welfare group, dog owners and local businesses raised concerns. The town settled on allowing electronic training devices in dog parks and during obedience training, however, at all other times in public, dogs must be physically leashed.

Blair said he also found online that some veterinarians are against the use of shock collars.

“I can’t vote on this,” Blair said, adding he would like more information from local experts, including the humane society.

Wright said part of the thinking in allowing electronic collars is that for someone that has a large dog, an electronic restraint might be more effective than a physical restraint like a leash.

“I mean there are folks in town who are probably outweighed by their animals, because we don’t have a dog that big, but some of these dogs are small horses,” he said.

Veterinarian Sandra Snyder with Payson Pet Care Veter­inarian Clinic told the Roundup that electronic collars are widely used for dog containment and training purposes, but like any other training tool they can be abused.

“In the hands of someone who knows what they are doing it can be used properly, but it has the potential like anything, even a leash, if they were cruel they could use it in a cruel way.”

Snyder said she is concerned to learn that the town has approved the use of an electronic collar in lieu of a leash.

“It is not going to keep them from running into the street or in running in front of car,” she said. “It is not going to provide the physical restraint a leash can.”

For someone walking down the road that only has his or her dog on an electronic collar, it will do little to stop a dog that goes to chase after a cat, for example, she said.

“If a dog is that rowdy and incorrigible (an electronic collar) is not going to do anything,” she said.

Sarah Hock, executive director with Humane Society of Central Arizona, said she agrees with Snyder that an electronic collar is not a restraining device.

“It is not going to restrain them from anything,” she said. “That is where a leash needs to come in for safety.”

An electronic collar could only stop a dog from running after a cat if the collar could be turned up so high it incapacitates them, but that could then burn a dog, she said.

While many trainers use electronic collars, Hock believes they are a quick fix that does not solve the underlying behavioral issue.

“Dogs don’t always associate pain with what they are doing,” she said. “It can cause more issues because the dog gains a negative association with the environment.”

At Thursday’s meeting, Blair asked the council to table the issue to a later date.

Mayor Kenny Evans said if they pass the new code, it could still be altered or amended in the future.

With that, the council approved the new code, with Blair and Councilor Fred Carpenter voting against the change.

Comments

H. Wm. Rhea III 4 months ago

People need to keep their dogs leashed or behind a good fence. While I agree that shock collars are really only good for barking dogs, and even then it's not 100%, something needed to be done and I'm glad to see the Mayor and Council taking action.

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Pat Randall 4 months ago

Why don't they do something about cats? Ones that have owners and the strays that the Humane Society turns loose. I would rather see a loose dog than a cat that comes into your yard and digs a potty. Cats should have to have a license just like a dog. What makes them so great they can run loose and not have to have a license? Yes I owned cats for many years. My great grandson had to give up his sand box because the neighbor cats thought it was a wonderful toilet.

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Meria Heller 4 months ago

How about owners just training their dogs? or being considerate of their neighbors who may want to actually sleep without hearing their dogs outside barking at all hours of the morning? Fence or not.Shock collars are not the answer. Training your pet, bringing them in at night and actually spending time with them is a place to start, or don't have one. If your idea of a pet is keeping them fenced up outside all day and night is sad. I rarely see a loose dog in Payson, but hear the symphony of poorly cared for dogs every morning noon and night.

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Teel McClanahan 4 months ago

Not all electronic collars shock the dogs. There are also vibrating collars. I have a friend that effectively trained her 2 dogs not to bark using a collar that vibrated when they barked.

Based on experience I believe several things Sara Hock said are opinion not fact. Example: electronic border fencing has been used of many years to train dogs to stay in an area.

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