Dog collar case ?political

A TWEED Heads man facing massive fines for using electric dog collars appears to be the victim of a highly politicised campaign, says the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA).

Former television cameraman Gavin Price faces fines of up to $16,500 after the RSPCA charged him with owning and using the collars which he legally bought from a Gold Coast pet shop.

PIAA chief executive officer Peter Nobbs says the charges come as NSW Primary Industry Minister Ian Macdonald is reviewing whether to lift a ban on the collars and allow their legal use in NSW.

Mr Nobbs said the RSPCA in the past had used successful prosecutions to generate press releases to push their opposition to the collars, known as electronic training devices.

"The RSPCA has been pushing a lot of spurious nonsense about the collars which we believe are a humane and effective training device," said Mr Nobbs, whose organisation represents professional trainers and pet shop owners.

"In many cases the only alternative pet owners have to using the collars to control barking is to put the animal down and how the RSPCA justifies this is just insane.

"The RSPCA has been able to impose its views over the use of the collars under the heading of animal welfare but we believe their concerns are totally unfounded.

"The collars use a watch-sized battery and are much kinder and more effective than using a big stick.

"Members of our association believe the RSPCA's federal administration has completely lost the plot over this issue."

Mr Nobbs said although the collars were banned in NSW pending the current review, the law was far from black and white.

He said a judgement in the NSW District Court in 1998 cleared the way for veteranarians to authorise their legal in NSW.

A leading Gold Coast based distributor of electric dog collars, John Holliday, said he was awarded more than $100,000 damages in the Federal Court after the judge found that the RSPCA had defamed him in a media campaign in Victoria with false statements about the collars' impact.

"As far as I know the RSPCA have not had a successful prosecution in years over the use of the collars and I believe it is using Mr Price as a sort of scapegoat to whip up public opinion and bolster its case," he said.

Mr Price, who is due to appear in court later this month on three charges related to the dog collars, said he bought them on the advice of a council ranger and had no idea they were illegal in NSW.

He said he acted because a neighbour was complaing that his dogs barked too much and was now distraught to learn he now faced big fines or even jail.

"I don't understand why I wasn't cautioned - I would never knowingly break the law and I just love animals," Mr Price said yesterday.

The RSPCA declined to comment.

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