I’m putting in our support to help fight legislation in the state of Florida that seeks to eliminate the use of certain humane tools, and training technique in dog training. Don’t fool yourself, these radicals are organized, determined, and well-funded. The following letters are from people at the front of the fight, Sean O’Shea, and Tyler Muto. They need the support of the right-minded majority of the dog training industry, and here’s your opportunity…Take it away, Sean. The Floor is yours.
As I mentioned in some recent posts, the extremist groups are rallying hard to start the push to regulate the dog training industry. That, in and of itself sounds healthy and beneficial. The truth is, these groups have a very specific agenda – and that is to eliminate your choice of tools and your training options…under the guise of regulation and doing what’s best for dogs. I’ll tell you this, if this passes, you will see euthanasia rates skyrocket, as well as rehoming, returns to shelters, and dogs locked away in yards or back rooms.
Here’s an email from my friend Tyler Muto the president of the IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals) about the current situation and what you all can do about it. I’ll tell you this, if this passes in Florida you can bet it will be coming to your area soon. So now’s the time to do our part and prevent the inevitable suffering of dogs and owners that will come of it. It would mean a lot to me if you would read the email and see if there’s anything you’d be able to help with.
Urgent action needed on Florida legislation!
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I have been informed by an inside source that the Commissioners in Florida have so far received far more letters in favor of the proposed ordinance which would require licensing for dog trainers, and heavily favors a reward-only approach. They will be meeting with the Animal Advisory Board on Friday so we need to act fast. It is crucial that we flex our muscle by sending as many letters as possible expressing opposition to this ordinance.
I have provided a template below that you can use to construct your own letter. Simply copy and paste the opening paragraph, and choose 2-3 of the bullet points to use in your statement. Then you can copy and paste the concluding statement, or use it as a reference to create your own:
I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed ordinance requiring licensing for dog trainers. I am a dog lover and professional and I am extremely passionate about the safety and welfare of dogs.
Dog Training is a diverse field with many differing ideologies. The language in the proposed ordinance suggests that it was influenced by a singular, rather extreme ideology, and as written will lead to more harm to dogs than it prevents.
Section 3.c.3 relates punishment to “dominance training techniques”. This is a very misleading association. Punishment has nothing to do with “dominance”; it is a natural, important, and unavoidable part of learning for all animals and humans alike. This section also prohibits causing “undue physical or mental discomfort”. In theory I agree with this statement, however the word “undue” leaves it open to wide-ranging interpretation. Given the broad range of ideologies in the industry this could mean something as rational as “don’t physically beat a dog” or something as extreme and irrational as “never require a dog to do something it doesn’t want to.” The latter would make virtually all dog ownership and care impossible.
Section 3.c.4 states, “In no way shall a Dog Trainer use or promote any aversive training methods or techniques.” The use of an aversive (Negative reinforcement and Positive Punishment) is an integral component not only of dog training, but also as a part of the universal laws of learning and cognition. You have likely been led to believe that “science says” – negative reinforcement leads to fear, aggression etc. I know that this statement strikes a sensitive chord in anyone who cares for the well being of their dog(s), and leaves reasonable concerns about the possibility of trauma and abuse. The truth is there are only a small handful of studies that suggest this, and they have all been discredited for faulty research methods and clear biases. In fact the vast majority of legitimate science reports the exact opposite. As a part of a balanced training program, negative reinforcement not only adds exponentially to the efficacy of training, but also has been shown to improve the animal’s psychological resilience to stress. In other words, measured usage of negative reinforcement is an essential component to creating happy, well balanced companions that are prepared for the challenges of the real world.
The science is very clear that positive reinforcement methods alone are not sufficiently effective when it comes to managing and resolving problem behaviors. As long as people own dogs, there will be a need for some amount of aversive training or punishment. The way this ordinance may be interpreted could make it very difficult for professional trainers to properly educate dog owners about how to use negative reinforcement and positive punishment in fair, humane, and effective mays. Without proper education, dog owners will be left to improvise which will certainly lead the way to greater harm and abuse. This can be compared to Abstinence-Only sex education. In areas where Abstinence-Only is promoted, there are alarmingly higher rates of teen pregnancy and STD’s due to lack of proper education. Similarly, promoting a positive only training platform will lead to greater abuse and mistreatment of dogs.
Both positive reinforcement and punishment have their advantages and disadvantages: punishment is better for suppressing behavior, positive reinforcement better for generating behavior; avoidance (punishment) schedules tend to produce more persistent behavior than reward schedules, and so on. The effects of positive reinforcement also dissipate when the reinforcement is withdrawn, and there is no positive-reinforcement procedure (including all differential reinforcement procedures) that produces such persistent behavior as a negative reinforcement schedule. Just as any other form of learning, Positive Reinforcement protocols can also provoke aggression and have undesired side effects. There are plenty of arguments on both sides, but the net conclusion is that the scientific evidence is pretty neutral in deciding between reward and punishment. Favoring reward over punishment is inconsistent with science and the basic laws of learning.
The discussion of the “Five Freedoms” is taken from the Farm Animal Welfare council. Key descriptions of what those freedoms are intended to represent/prevent have been omitted in this ordinance, again opening the door for extreme interpretations that could be damaging for companion animals.
Conclusion: Industry regulation such as licensing should not be undertaken without careful thought as to the potential unintended consequences of the licensure requirements. As it is currently worded, this ordinance is wrought with ambiguities that can lead to extreme interpretations that would limit professionals’ abilities to properly do their jobs, and potentially lead to far greater harm for dogs in Hillsborough County. We would suggest at the very least that any attempt to regulate dog training tools, methods etc. be omitted, and all such decisions be left up to the agreement of the professional trainer and the client involved.
In addition to writing your own letter, I strongly encourage anyone in Florida to ask your clients to submit a letter as well. Testimonials from average dog owners in the county are very powerful. I encourage statements that express situations where positive only trainers either failed or suggested euthanasia, and balanced training saved the day.
Lastly, if you have a good relationship with any veterinarians, please ask them to submit a very brief statement along the lines of:
“My name is _______, I have been practicing veterinary medicine for ________years. In that time, I have not seen any cases where a dog was harmed by the use of a prong collar or negative reinforcement in general.”
Remember, we need these submitted before Friday!!!!
Address all letters to the following addresses:
Add as cc:
Thank you for your efforts!
In your continued service,
International Association of Canine Professionals
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Our mailing address is:
PO Box 928, Lampasas TX 76550
Phone (512) 564-1011 • Fax (512)556-4220islaton ur -training your chance to get involved. Read, Share, and write a letter of your own as per Tylers suggestion.