It had to happen. I'm just surprised it didn't happen sooner.
Last week, a group of animal behavior organizations issued a statement that criticized the use of aversives in dog training--specifically citing trainer Cesar Millan as a proponent of such use--and invited him to comment on the statement. Mr. Millan's "comment" came the very next day: his representatives demanded immediate retraction of the statement. They also warned the organizations that failure to do so would put those organizations at risk for being sued by Mr. Millan for libel and for threatening his business.
With the money he's earned from his books, magazine, DVD's and other enterprises, Mr. Millan probably has unlimited funds--or at least very deep pockets--with which to wage a legal battle. And because the organizations' statement originated from a United Kingdom website, he's also got the advantage of waging such a battle where the laws heavily favor libel complainants.
As far as I know, none of the organizations has publicly revealed how they will respond. Some, particularly those with healthy treasuries, may choose to call the Dog Whisperer's bluff. Others, especially those who lack such resources, may choose to exit the battlefield. Those in the latter category may feel as though they've been blackmailed into keeping silent, even though they have the expertise and scientific research to clearly demonstrate that they are in the right. They may feel they have no choice to do anything but withdraw, because to do otherwise would jeopardize their very survival.
This is what bullies do. They threaten people or groups in ways that jeopardize the well-being of those people or groups. The fact that those who are threatened--in other words, the defendants--are in the right doesn't matter. Even if those defendants were ultimately exonerated in a court of law, many would understandably decide that bankruptcy is too high a price to pay for such exoneration. And that's not even taking into account the emotional stress involved when a plaintiff with unlimited funds decides to take aim at one or more defendants that lack such resources.
I've seen first hand--and on more than one occasion--how well-heeled bullies get their way with those who are attempting to do the right thing. I've witnessed the anguish that objects of such bullying tactics endure. Where once I'd have urged those defendants to fight, now I know better. If my only weapon were a water pistol and someone aimed a cannon at me, I wouldn't bother firing my water pistol. I'd get off the field of battle pronto. Anyone who says they'd do otherwise either has more weaponry than the bully does, or simply doesn't understand.
It's hard to walk away from a battle when you know you're in the right. Sometimes, though, walking away is a matter of self-preservation. Sometimes it's better to retreat and regroup--and do so with the knowledge that there's always another day, another time and another place.
Golden Poodle awards for July
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