NI puppy fitted with anti-bark collar as home boarding sparks demand for stricter regulations
A dog owner has called for urgently tougher regulations and checks on house boarding after her pup was fitted with an anti-bark collar without her knowledge.
Maria Corrigan from Co Antrim said she was devastated and worried for her pup’s health after learning that Shiloh had been subjected to behavior modification efforts using the battery-operated collar.
The one-year-old Cocker Spaniel, poodle mix, was in the care of Orla and Damien Purcell of Chez Purcell The Dog Hotel, Newtownabbey, whose boarding business claims to offer ‘a normal home setting’ for the animals of company.
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Maria said: “I always feel sick about my puppy being subjected to this type of treatment. I never would have trusted Shiloh with them if I had any idea they would put a collar on her like that.
“When I questioned him they said he barked at 6.15am and put the collar on him. So I can only assume that by that time in the morning they already had it in their possession. wore in a video that was sent to me around 10:30.
“I think these collars should not be used by boarding houses and the Department of Agriculture and local councils should have much tighter controls on these places.”
Tim Kirby, one of Ireland’s leading vets, says anti-bark collars should be banned. He said: “There is no place in modern society for anti-bark collars. Dogs express their emotions and thoughts through barking and other innate means of communication.
“The freedom to express normal behavior is one of the five freedoms that form the foundation of animal welfare around the world. -being of the animal.”
The Five Freedoms:
- Freed from hunger and thirst,
- No discomfort,
- Absence of pain, injury or disease,
- Freedom to express normal behavior,
- Freedom from behind and from distress.
And Saintfield’s leading dog trainer Joanne Doonan, a member of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, agreed. She said: “There’s always a reason for the barking and simply removing it doesn’t solve the underlying reason.
“Some people will say that it just buzzes or vibrates and that’s not an electric shock for the purpose of justifying their use, but a sudden noise or vibration can be very aversive to most dogs. I don’t would never use or recommend their use.”
Maria said unlicensed boarding houses should not be open and licensed establishments should not use bark collars on a dog without the owner’s knowledge or permission.
She said DogsLive “He should never have been put on that collar, let alone without my knowledge. Shiloh is still just a puppy and he’s being trained through positive reinforcement and not a noise-emitting, vibrating collar.”
Maria said she was shocked when she found out what had happened to her dog. She explained: “I had been looking for a reliable, caring and professional boarding house for a while to help me with Shiloh and I contacted Chez Purcell and decided to bring Shiloh over for an afternoon to see how he got away with it.
“My family normally takes care of him when I’m away which isn’t very often but this time we left together. At that time I had taken Shiloh to spend a few days at Chez Purcell and I Had made other reservations, everything seemed OK and the house was well secured.
“I contacted Orla Purcell while I was away and she said nothing about him barking.
“But on my way home from Spain I received a video of her showing Shiloh, who is still being trained using positive reinforcement techniques, wearing a big black collar with some sort of unity on it.
“I replied to the video and said he was wearing someone else’s collar. Orla replied on WhatsApp and said it was a ‘barking collar’.
“She said if Shiloh barked three times in a row it made a high pitched sound and later she confirmed it was also vibrating in her neck.
“The WhatsApps I got said, ‘I put this on him this morning because he was barking incessantly. It’s a barking collar and when they bark more than three times in a row it makes a high pitched sound that doesn’t hurt but gives them the idea.
“He barked a lot in the morning and drove the others away. It’s probably the fact that there are so many dogs here and the excitement of it all.
“We don’t normally use it and on this occasion it was unfortunately necessary as it was 6.15am and you were abroad on holiday.”
At the time, the Purcells ran their ‘dog hotel’ from their kitchen in Newtownabbey. They describe their business as a ‘dog boarding house and dog day care home’ and the pets in their care sleep in the kitchen for a fee of £30 per night per dog and £25 per day per dog.
Maria said: “Shiloh was booked for seven nights from April 14 and I trusted Chez Purcell to look after him as I expected. I have since found out that boarding school should have been allowed and DAERA confirmed that was not the case when Shiloh was there.
“But worse than that, I found Shiloh quite changed after he got home. He was subdued, withdrawn and not in his normal state. He’s not an overly vocal dog but after two days of absolute silence from his part and his change of mood, I took him to the vet because I thought he was sick and I was afraid the collar had hurt him.
“My vet said he may have suffered psychological harm from the experience and that we needed to give him time to see how things were working. They said his silence and withdrawal could be due to the fact that he was too afraid to bark.
“I was told there was probably no physical injury. He’s just a puppy and he would have had no way of understanding what was going on. In the end, it took him two weeks to become himself again.
“If I pay for my dog to be kept in a home environment, I would expect the barking to be dealt with in another way. Dogs bark for a reason, to try to communicate something. Simply collaring them isn’t enough to get them to stop barking, and doing it without permission is even worse.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to make an informed decision about what equipment to use on my pup that needed to modify his behavior, and I personally believe the use of these collars is unethical.
“Shiloh was picked up from Chez Purcell The Dog Hotel and I’ve canceled all other appointments he had with them. I’ll never know exactly what happened. All I can do is is to make sure this will never happen to Shiloh again.
Belfast Live has contacted Chez Purcell The Dog Hotel over the complaints. Orla Purcell replied: “Miss Corrigan and I had a disagreement over a single use of a Masbrill training collar which beeps and vibrates. I regret not asking her permission for which I apologized.
“It was the very early hours of the morning and Miss Corrigan was in Spain. We take animal welfare very seriously here and will never use or do anything that could cause harm.
“Dogs often miss the company of other dogs when they leave here as they are off leash and free to play under supervision.”
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At the time of the incident, DAERA confirmed the company’s licensing status to Maria in writing. They said: “DAERA can inform you that Chez Purcell is not currently authorized. Animal welfare is the responsibility of the District Councils. DAERA will solve the problem of licenses.
DAERA has been asked to comment further on the pet boarding regulations in Northern Ireland.
Boarding conditions in Northern Ireland:
A boarding house is a business that houses other people’s dogs or cats. This only concerns kennels and catteries.
Owners must pay a fee to obtain an animal boarding establishment license. The license must be renewed annually.
Establishments must demonstrate that they have the appropriate qualifications or experience to operate an animal boarding facility upon request.
Establishments must demonstrate that the animals cared for are:
- kept in suitable accommodation
- provided with adequate food, drink and bedding
- regularly exercised
- protected in case of emergency
- protected from infectious diseases – this includes the provision of isolation facilities
The DARD may inspect the premises before issuing the license and, at any time after the license is granted, verify that the establishments comply with animal health, safety and welfare standards.
Fines and Penalties
Establishments can be fined up to £500 if you stop or delay an inspection or face a fine of £2,500 or imprisonment for up to three months, or both, s they run an animal boarding facility without a license, or do not comply with the conditions of the permit.