Thérèse Anne Coffey MP was promoted to the UK government’s cabinet last week as a pensions secretary. It has been reported in The Times newspaper that she is impressed by an electric shock collar used to train a rescue dog owned by the family. She shared her views on the collar with Theresa Villiers, the environment secretary.
Before Coffey became pensions secretary she was a minister at the Department for environment (Defra). That department promised in 2018 that electric training collars for dogs and cats would be banned.
Michael Gove, who proceeded Villiers as environment secretary said in August 2018 that Britain was a nation of animal lovers and the use of shock collars causes harm and suffering to pets. He declared that the ban would improve the welfare of animals and he urged pet owners to use positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement to train their animals.
Coffey is the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal. She contacted a dog trainer, Steve Andrews, in August 2019 for help in training Lola, a rescue dog and a cross between a pug and a beagle because the dog was lunging at other dogs.
Andrew suggested using a shock collar and explained how it worked. The explanation included giving Coffey’s dog a mild electric shock as she held the dog in her hand.
Coffey even had a joke with Mr Andrews about the fact that she was being trained to use a shock collar on her dog. She laughed about the irony and hypocrisy of what she was doing.
“I have no issues with using a remote collar, how does it work?”
Andrews made a video which shows Lola wearing the collar and returning immediately on command to receive a treat when the electric pulse was activated by Coffey’s sister.
Coffey’s family was impressed and her mother ordered an electric collar for Lola last week. Andrews then asked Coffey to help him to lobby the government to abandon a proposed ban on the collars.
The founder of the Association of Responsible Dog Owners, Mr Penrith said:
“It would be astonishing hypocrisy if Defra was to continue to threaten to ban e-collars. The Department has to either stop calling e-collars “cruel” or it has to condemn Coffey for being cruel to Lola. Which is it?”
Ms Coffey has not responded to requests for comment by The Times newspaper. A group of veterinarians who support the use of shock collars said that if they were banned more dogs would be put down. Dog welfare would be negatively impacted. They say that 300,000 dogs in Britain have been trained using electric collars. If they were banned the “impact will be felt throughout the fields of England in dead sheep and the dogs”.
Comment: the bottom line is that this cabinet minister has behaved hypocritically in the extreme. Personally, this does not surprise me. In the UK the public has little confidence, trust and faith in parliamentarians and particularly cabinet members. They can’t be trusted. Oh, and electric shock collars are indeed cruel. All dog training should be by positive reinforcement.