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Row over Suffolk MP Therese Coffey's 'cruel' e-collar for her new pet dog

PUBLISHED: 09:45 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:28 18 September 2019

Steve Andrews is a dog trainer based in Woodbridge. PICTURE: RACHEL EDGE

Steve Andrews is a dog trainer based in Woodbridge. PICTURE: RACHEL EDGE

RACHEL EDGE

Cabinet minster Therese Coffey has come under fire from the Kennel Club after it emerged she has used a controversial "e-collar" which could soon be banned by her own government to train her new pet.

Therese Coffey has used a controversial e-collar to train her family's new dog.  Picture: CHRIS McANDREW/UK PARLIAMENTTherese Coffey has used a controversial e-collar to train her family's new dog. Picture: CHRIS McANDREW/UK PARLIAMENT

But her decision has been defended by the professional trainer who is helping to train her family's new rescue dog.

The collar supplies a small electrical pulse to keep a pet in check - and is used when other training methods have not worked.

Woodbridge's Steve Andrews has been working with Dr Coffey, her sister and her mother to help train their new rescue dog.

E-collars, sometimes called shock collars, are due to be banned by the Department of the Environment (Defra) - where Dr Coffey was a minister until her promotion to the cabinet earlier this month - because of cruelty claims.

Bill Lambert, Senior Health and Welfare Manager at the Kennel Club, said: "We are appalled to see any promotion and use of a shock collar, especially from a former environment Minister whose department funded research proving shock collars have a long-term, negative welfare impact on dogs and are ineffective training devices.

"Even when used to deliver a low intensity shock, any electric collar must incite a degree of fear or distress into a dog in order to alter behaviour.

"Devices that cause this, in the name of dog training, when so many positive training methods and devices are available, are entirely unnecessary.

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"We, along with all others who care about the welfare of dogs, urge Defra to follow through with their promise to ban cruel shock collars and address this issue now."

Mr Andrews said e-collars were not cruel when specialist equipment was properly used.

He said: "Some of these collars are crude with only a few settings. What we are working at here has 100 settings and we take great care to ensure they are properly set up. Therese's dog responds on setting 11. She felt what that was like and could feel nothing. Therese didn't feel anything until it was turned to 16 and that was very faint.

"This is not cruel. Therese and her family are dog lovers doing the best for their pet. Without this collar it could never be let off the lead."

Mr Andrews said the campaign against e-collars, which was backed by the Kennel Club and the RSPCA, was misplaced.

He said: "Some dogs can be trained with a clicker and doggy chocs. I train many dogs like that. But there are some that need this - it's not cruel. Without this they would either have to be kept in kennels all the time or put down. That is cruel."

Jenna Kiddie, Dogs Trust's Head of Canine Behaviour and Research, said: "It is both unnecessary and cruel to use these collars on dogs and we totally oppose it - they are not only painful but can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing.

"A dog can't understand why they are being shocked and this can cause them immense distress, with many dogs exhibiting signs of anxiety and worsened behaviour as a result.

"Positive methods, using rewards such as food, are the most effective and kindest way to train your dog, so there is absolutely no need for owners to even consider the use of these devices."

A spokesman for Dr Coffey's office said no one would be commenting on the report.

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