UNPAID community centre volunteers have been hit by a torrent of online abuse over plans to hire out their facility for a dog training event.

The committee who run the Gibson Hall received hundreds of emails, letters, comments and negative online reviews after the Advertiser reported on plans to hold a dog obedience class at the Garelochhead venue next month.

Village resident Roddy Kirk plans to bring American trainer Blake Rodriquez to the hall in September – but the news sparked a flood of calls for the event to be cancelled from people who criticised Mr Kirk’s use of ‘e-collars’ and claimed the venue was supporting animal abuse.

A spokesperson for the hall committee told the Advertiser: “We have been inundated with emails, letters, comments and reviews about the event because of the methods Mr Kirk uses.

“There’s loads and loads of people saying we are supporting animal cruelty, but we looked into it when the first of the issues were raised.

“We looked into the new legislation from the Scottish Government. Mr Kirk was quite happy to show us his methods and his business complies with the new legislation.”

Individual volunteers at the hall are also understood to have received abuse – but the hall’s spokesperson said most of the criticism has come from people who don’t live in the Helensburgh or Garelochhead area.

“Most of the abuse is not from locals,” they continued, “but from people who never have, and never will, set foot in the hall.

“They are doing whatever they can to tarnish our reputation. We struggle enough as it is.

“We didn’t expect hundreds and hundreds of emails demanding that we cancel the event. We don’t really have any justification for it.

“We have had a few people say ‘well done, keep your reputation and don’t allow people who are ill-informed bully you’ but that is easier said than done.”

The hall’s committee has no connection to the class, other than hiring the venue to Mr Kirk for the session.

Mr Kirk’s event is also unconnected to a local dog training group which uses the hall each week.

Critics voiced strong views on the Advertiser’s social media accounts, with one calling the training method “cruel and abusive” and others labelling it “barbaric”.

But others praised Mr Kirk’s methods, with one calling him “a fantastic trainer”.

Mr Kirk, meanwhile, hit back at the online critics who claim that he condones abuse of dogs.

He denied using electric shock collars, which are set to be banned in Scotland, but explained he does use ‘e-collars’ – the ‘e’ standing for ‘education’ – which send a blunt vibrating sensation to the dog.

“When you use a remote e-collar it’s over and done with in half a second and the dog comes back,” he said.

“You can use the remote collar and that sends a tapping sensation to the dog.

“The remote collar sends a signal to the dog but that doesn’t mean it’s shocking the dog.”

This is not the first time Roddy’s training approach has been criticised, as his events usually receive furious responses.

“There’s a very big divide in balanced training,” he said. “We reward the dog if they do good but if they are bad thing you tell them off just like you would with children.

“You need to remember they are predators and can kill, but then you have these other trainers that think everything can be sorted with treats and it’s not like that.”

He added: “What I would say is come and see it. If people are open-minded and want to know they would come along and see for themselves.”