The San Francisco SPCA’s Guide for Going Prong-Free

Thank you for downloading the San Francisco SPCA’s Prong Collar Advocacy Kit. Our two campuses officially banned prong collars on January 24, 2017. We want to help your organization become prong-free too! Below is a step-by-step guide outlining the steps we took and the timeline we used as we worked toward our prong collar ban.

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Clear here for all Prong Advocacy Kit Materials!

Background

Sick and tired of seeing so many dogs needlessly poked and choked by prong collars, in 2015 we held our first meeting to formulate a plan for an educational campaign.

Step 1: Start Small

We began by simply making flyers available to raise awareness about the dangers and problems associated with prong collars. We placed these throughout our hospital lobbies and adoption centers.

We then started offering prong collar swaps at our special events. People could bring in their dog’s prong collar, and we would exchange it for a free harness or flat collar.

Step 2: Educational Campaign

Public Education

With buy-in and momentum building, we launched an official educational campaign and web page in February 2016 (sfspca.org/prong). The website offers scientific studies detailing the detrimental effects of punishment training, prong collar myth-busting, humane alternatives to prongs, and a pledge for individuals and organizations to take and share on social media. We also used all of the communication tools at our disposal to promote the campaign, including our newsletters and social media sites.

Staff Education

In conjunction with the website launch, we scheduled months of training sessions for different workgroups in our hospitals and adoption centers, so that staff were equipped with the knowledge and talking points needed to explain this change to our clients. We created talking points for all public-facing staff members, including those answering our phones. You’ll find a copy of those in this kit. We also solicited donated collars and harnesses from our supporters, which we offered to those willing to swap their prong collar for a humane alternative.

During this time we started holding bi-weekly prong collar meetings, which included a representative from each major public-facing department. This helped us share information across the organization and quickly learn of any problems encountered by staff.

Step 3: Soft Rollout

In spring 2016 we started our soft rollout, informing visitors and clients about the upcoming prong collar ban and advising those using prongs to bring a different collar the next time they visited. Priority was always to take a non-judgmental, non-confrontational and educational approach to these conversations.

During this phase, we created signage for our campuses and surveyed clients to get a better sense of their views on prong collars and our campaign.

Step 4: Prong Collar Ban

On January 24, 2017, having trained our staff and agreed on goals, the SF SPCA officially became prong-free. 

Today, if clients enter our hospitals or adoption centers with their dogs on prong collars, we explain that we want to make their dog’s visit as low-stress as possible. We ask them to please remove the prong collar during their visit and offer them a flat collar, which they are welcome to keep. For details and conversation scripts, see the talking points included in this kit.

While there will always be some dog owners who push back against change, we’ve had the opportunity to have many educational conversations with dog owners who had no idea that prong collars cause pain. Many of these clients said they wished they had another option but didn’t know what alternatives existed. 

 

We encourage other facilities to consider going prong-free. The current science of canine learning and behavior clearly shows that using fear and pain to control a dog can have serious negative side effects, including redirected aggression, learned helplessness, increased reactivity, and physical injury. The SF SPCA is committed to educating the public on modern, positive dog training and care, and we invite you to join us in this effort.

If you have questions or need support as you consider a transition to a prong-free environment, please reach out: prongnews@sfspca.org

 

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