MICHAEL Gove is set to U-turn over plans for a total ban on electric shock collars for cats and dogs.

While the Tory environment minister could ban the devices for discipline and training, he may allow them to be used with invisible containment fences where animals are given slight, sharp shocks if they try to pass a boundary set by their owner.

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In an exchange in the Commons, Tory backbencher John Hayes – who has consistently opposed a ban – asked Gove: “Will the Secretary of State, a noted cat owner, stand alongside those friends of felines, or will he send TS Eliot spinning in his grave and many cats to theirs, too?”

Gove, quoting Eliot’s Wasteland, replied: “April is the cruellest month. But this April will not be a month in which cruelty towards any living thing will be tolerated.

“We want to introduce legislation to ensure that the use of shock collars as a means of restraining animals in a way that causes them pain is adequately dealt with.

“[Mr Hayes] raises another important point in that containment fences can play a valuable role in ensuring that individual animals, dogs and cats, can roam free in the domestic environment in which they are loved and cared for.”

Animal charities said they were upset by the news.

The Blue Cross said selling the collars for any reason would legitimise their use, adding: “We’re extremely disappointed to hear Michael Gove’s statement that Defra may have dropped plans to ban electric shock fences. There is no need to cause cats and dogs pain when kind methods are available.

“We hope Mr Gove will listen to pet welfare experts on this and reconsider.”

However, campaigners say the fences stop their dogs running on to roads.

Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave – who uses an electric collar on his own Old English sheepdog – said: “I am delighted that the government is moving towards a decision not to ban containment fences.

“I agree with Michael Gove that they are a valuable way of giving pets the freedom of the nation’s gardens and I am convinced, from my own experience, that they are not in the slightest way cruel.”