Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Someone doesn't look good here. The question is who?

A couple of weeks ago, Cesar Millan appeared on a BBC news program and, in response to a question, said that the American Humane Association--which in the past has sharply criticized his training methods--had reversed its position after representatives from the organization visited him during filming of his NatGeo show, The Dog Whisperer. Outraged viewers contacted American Humane, which reportedly indicated that no such visit had taken place and that its position regarding Millan's methods was unchanged. An American Humane spokesperson also indicated that the group would request a correction/retraction from Millan or one of his representatives.

I contacted American Humane yesterday to ask where things stood in that regard. This morning I received an email from the group's public relations manager, Kelley Weir, in which she stated:

"As promised, we did follow through and ask [Millan's] TV production company, MPH Entertainment, to make a correction with the BBC. As you can see from the attached letter, MPH is attempting to set the record straight and correct this unfortunate mischaracterization of American Humane's position. We hope this helps clarify the situation. As you will also notice in the letter, American Humane has indeed accepted a courtesy visit with Mr. Millan's foundation next year in order to discuss why our position differs from his on his training methods, but that certainly does not infer that we are planning to change our position in any way."

The letter to which Weir refers is from Dog Whisperer Executive Producer Jim Milio to the BBC. In the letter, Milio explains that Millan inadvertently confused American Humane with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) -- which, according to MPH, had visited Cesar on the set. However, the MPH letter said nothing as to whether the ASPCA had subsequently endorsed Millan's training methods. And the only official reference to those methods that I could find on the ASPCA's website in that regard is this transcript from a 2007 online chat with Victoria Wells, ASPCA Manager of Shelter Behavior and Training:

"[Millan and I] have very different methods and philosophies, althouth the ultimate goal is the same. We both want to keep dogs alive. I deal with a very different population of dogs than he does. If I attempted the style of training he practices, the results would not be successful. I work with severely abused animals who need to know they can trust people. I take a lot of different trainers' and behaviorists' methods and apply them to what I do. Two people from whom I have learned tons are Dr. Amy Marder and the ASPCA's Dr. Pam Reid."

Sooooo ... what is truly going on? Did the ASPCA endorse Cesar's methods? Or did Cesar and his team equate an ASPCA visit with an endorsement? Either way, somebody's not looking very good here.

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to create a link from this post to the PDF file of the Jim Milio letter that Ms. Weir of American Humane forwarded to me. But I'll be happy to forward a copy of the letter to anyone who asks.


Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

That is fishy for sure. The terrible thing is that even with a correction ... people who saw the original interview or whatever won't likely know it was false.

It's like when Consumer Reports recommended Old Roy dog food. Few people saw the later retraction.

Jackie said...

I used to confuse American Humane with the Humane Society and the ASPCA as well. I don't think someone should be condemned for a mistake or branded a liar. I think many people are too quick to condemn people just for being popular. From my experience, Millan has done good things for me and my dog.