Cabinet Minister Therese Coffey has come under fire from the Kennel Club after it emerged that she used a controversial “electronic collar” that may soon be banned by her own government to train her new pet.
But his decision was defended by the professional trainer who is helping train his family’s new rescue dog.
The collar provides a small electrical boost to keep an animal in check – and is used when other training methods haven’t worked.
Steve Andrews of Woodbridge worked with Dr. Coffey, his sister and his mother to help train their new rescue dog.
E-necklaces, sometimes referred to as shock collars, are expected to be banned by the Department of the Environment (Defra) – where Dr Coffey was a minister until his promotion to cabinet earlier this month – due to allegations of cruelty.
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Bill Lambert, senior director of health and wellness at the Kennel Club, said: “We are appalled to see any promotion and use of a shock collar, especially from a former minister of the Environment whose department has funded research proving that shock collars have a negative long-term impact on dog welfare and are ineffective training devices.
“Even when used to deliver a low-intensity shock, any electric collar must induce some degree of fear or distress in a dog in order to modify its behavior.
“Devices that do this, in the name of dog training, when so many positive training methods and devices are available, are completely unnecessary.
“We, along with all those who care about the welfare of dogs, urge Defra to keep their promise to ban cruel shock collars and get it fixed now.”
Mr Andrews said electronic collars were not cruel when specialized equipment was used correctly.
He said: “Some of these collars are rough with just a few tweaks. What we’re working on here has 100 settings and we take great care to make sure they’re set up correctly. Therese’s dog responds to setting 11. She felt what it was … like and couldn’t feel anything.Therese didn’t feel anything until he was turned 16 and it was very weak.
“It’s not cruel. Therese and her family are dog lovers who do their best for their pet. Without this collar, he could never let go of the leash.”
Mr Andrews said the campaign against electronic collars, which was supported by the Kennel Club and the RSPCA, was misplaced.
He said: “Some dogs can be trained with a clicker and shock doggy. I train a lot of dogs like that. But there are some that need it – it’s not cruel. Without it they should either be kept in kennels all the time, either It’s cruel.
Jenna Kiddie, Head of Dog Research and Behavior at Dogs Trust, said: “It is both unnecessary and cruel to use these collars on dogs and we totally oppose them – they are not only painful but can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical well-being.
“A dog cannot understand why he is shocked and this can cause him immense distress, with many dogs showing signs of anxiety and worsening behavior as a result.
“Positive methods, using rewards like food, are the most effective and kindest way to train your dog, so there is absolutely no need for owners to even consider using these devices.”
A spokesperson for Dr Coffey’s office said no one would comment on the report.