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Petco to End Sale of Electronic ‘Shock’ Collars

Glenn Polyn//October 7, 2020//

Petco to End Sale of Electronic ‘Shock’ Collars

Glenn Polyn //October 7, 2020//

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Press release: Petco

Petco announced this week that it has stopped selling specific electronic “shock” collars, strengthening its commitment to positive reinforcement training methods and solidifying the company’s evolution from a leading pet specialty retailer to a category-defining health and wellness partner for pets and pet parents. Recognizing the opportunity to create real change, the company is calling on the industry and consumers to join its movement via an online petition aimed at creating responsible regulation for the retail sale of shock collars to general consumers. 

“Electricity may be critical to powering your microwave, but it has no role for the average pet parent training their dog,” said Petco CEO Ron Coughlin. “Shock collars have been shown to increase fear, anxiety and stress in dogs, and we believe there’s a better way – Positive Reinforcement Training. As a health and wellness company, our mission is focused on improving pet lives and we think selling shock collars does the opposite. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we, and others, aren’t putting potentially harmful products in the wrong hands.”  

The decision, which was confirmed in consultation with the Petco Pet Wellness Council (PPWC), includes all human- and bark-activated electronic pet collars, commonly referred to as “shock” collars, which have been removed from Petco’s in-store and online assortment. Pet parents will be encouraged to try products and services rooted in positive reinforcement training methods backed by experts, including a newly launched online training program, as well a suite of private and in-home training classes, all led by more than 1,200 Petco Certified Dog Trainers.  

“Shock collars are misguided, antiquated, harmful equipment,” said Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, MS, PhD, a member of the PPWC and senior research fellow, adjunct associate professor and head of the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. “It’s great to see Petco taking the lead in removing this merchandise from their stores, in support of their advocacy of positive reinforcement training.”  

The change also reflects concerns pet parents have today on shock collars. According to a recent study*, 70% of dog parents feel shock collars have a negative impact on their pet’s emotional or mental well-being, while 69% consider shock collars a cruel training method. In fact, 59% of dog parents say they would rather shock themselves than use a shock collar on their dog. In line with Petco’s push to affect change on this issue, the same study also found that seven in 10 (71%) dog parents feel there should be limitations on the retail sale of shock collars to prevent human error or abuse, while more than half (51%) say they should only really be used by professionally trained dog trainers. 

“Science shows animals will learn a new behavior faster and more successfully if they are allowed to voluntarily participate in the learning process and are rewarded for preferred behaviors,” said Dr. Whitney Miller, Head of Veterinary Medicine for Petco. “Punishment is not only less successful in changing unwanted behaviors, shock collars have been known to actually reinforce negative behaviors and create anxiety within pets.”  

In connection with this announcement, the company launched a new look that boldly declares “Petco, The Health + Wellness Co.” and reflects Petco’s more than 55-year journey to becoming a health and wellness company. A major marketing campaign highlighting the company evolution is slated for early 2021.  

Since its founding as a pet specialty retailer in 1965, Petco has led the industry in doing what is right for pets and as a champion for pet health and well-being. In 2014, Petco became the first national specialty retailer to discontinue the sale of China-made treats following consumer concerns about the safety of such products – and other retailers quickly followed. In May of 2019, the company became the first and only national retailer of pet food to stop selling dog and cat food and treats with artificial ingredients, raising the bar for the entire pet retail industry. As an essential retailer during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Petco has served as the grocery store, the doctor’s office and the pharmacy for America’s pets, delivering on its promise as a partner to pet parents within a dramatically changed landscape.