I'm all for establishing a dialogue between disagreeing parties, if such a dialogue can be truly constructive. Living in the Washington DC area, I haven't seen too much of that lately. Sometimes I wonder if civility, bipartisanship, and commonality are concepts that will sooned be labeled "archaic" by most dictionaries.
Which is why I sat up and took notice when I got an email from my good friend and colleague, Steve Dale, about an upcoming symposium between American Humane and "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan. The idea of such a symposium is surprising, given the brouhaha that resulted when Millan incorrectly stated last December that American Humane representatives had visited the set of NatGeo's The Dog Whisperer and, consequently, had endorsed his methods. (Later, a spokesman for Millan amended that assertion to say that the ASPCA, not American Humane, had visited the set.)
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm no fan of Cesar Millan. I don't doubt that he's sincere in his desire to help dogs. But, with the exception of his oft-stated belief that dogs don't get enough exercise, I find his pronouncements and methods to be anachronistic and potentially dangerous. I'm certainly not alone in that assessment; here is just one trainer's eloquent explanation of why she believes his methods don't work.
So, is a true dialogue possible? I honestly don't know. I would, however, urge American Humane to be as transparent as possible regarding the preparations for the symposium and to open that symposium to the press and public. Let journos and dog lovers alike know where and when the symposium will be and who will be speaking, in addition to Millan. Let anyone who wishes to attend hear for themselves what all the speakers have to say. And, above all, let those who attend serve as a reality check if, for some reason, any speaker later attempts to spin the proceedings in a manner that doesn't accurately reflect what actually occurred.