Pets’ Trust off the Rails?
Many of you have noticed Fun Paw Care’s (FPC) silence after ardently supporting the Pets’ Trust (PT) and educating the community during last year’s election. Remaining in a taciturn state is not one of my strong points. The reason for my silence was that we were waiting to see how the leadership and direction of the PT unfolded. When getting on board with the PT and leveraging our community, reputation, client and fan base support, it was for one reason and one reason only: to help eradicate the killing of 20,000+ dogs and cats here in Miami every year.
Our intent was not to support ego maniacs, delusional sociopaths or an agenda to make the PT a national model and it definitely wasn’t to support the ignorant, outdated, harmful advice given by reality show host, the obdurate Cesar Millan. It was only to save Miami’s dogs and cats. To support this cause, I and many others took off from work, used our vacation days, and spent weeks of our time, energy and resources. Since this straw poll vote, the Pets’ Trust has been slowly veering off path and putting the cart before the horse. It has also been selling out to garner support from autodidact Cesar Millan, whose empiricism has set the ethology and dog training community back decades.
The Pets’ Trust Problems
Fun Paw Care’s (and dare I say many others) major gripes with the PT are twofold: 1) trying to make the PT a national model before its even successfully attempted or implemented here in Miami Dade, the jurisdiction where it was voted in favor to save our local animals and 2) the involvement of reality show host Cesar Millan and his outdated, barbaric, Machiavellian “training and behavior” beliefs and methodologies.
The Pets’ Trust Treading on Thin Ice
Is it ethical to skirt the line of ignorance and benevolence? Everyone who works with Fun Paw Care is an animal activist and wants nothing more than to save animals the world over. But at what price? We don’t support buying puppies from pet stores to fuel the puppy mill barbarism. When looking at the big picture, to save a few at the expense of millions, the math is self-evident. Is it worth gaining support and kowtowing to the shiny veneers of reality show hosts that masquerade as experts in fields that they are clueless about at the expense of millions of dogs? When these dogs end up back in shelters and are killed because of innocent families taking blinkered Cesar Millan’s advice and destroying their dogs and their relationships, I would vehemently argue NO. Save a dog to advocate abuse doesn’t make sense to me.
Prior to the passage of the PT, the organization understandably needed grassroots support, and that is what I, FPC and countless other altruistic and caring individuals provided. From the very beginning it was dubious and arguable whether reality show hosts were needed at all. Nonetheless Cesar Millan was fawned in and convinced to say a few sound bites in support of the PT. I bit my tongue as the PT community was told implicitly and explicitly that was all the PT was asking him to do and the relationship with Cesar Millan would be ending after the passage of the vote for the PT.
The inextricable intertwining and immersion of education, dog training and ethology (through the PT behavior initiative) and saving Miami’s animals cannot be separated. We (local professionals and the community) supported the PT because we were led to believe it would save animals and support humane treatment for them through ethical, scientifically founded positive reinforcement dog training (+R), education, not advocating inhumane, abusive “education” and “traditional training”. The PT behavior initiative focuses on behavior and training and the PT should be explicit about what methods it supports. Positive reinforcement dog training and behavior is about long established scientific facts of what is considered the most humane, ethical and efficient way of teaching and educating. There is no debate, there are decades of scientific data to back it up. If PT doesn’t believe in science or supporting science I, and a number of others, would not have supported the PT and I think there would be an immediate backlash.
Dinner with the ignorant
After receiving an email invitation to attend a dinner with Cesar Millan, I was nauseous from the claims made as was any other person who takes education, the career of dog training, the study of ethology and animal behavior very seriously. The promotion and alignment of the PT with Millan as an “educational” speaker for dog training and behavior is a disgrace and does a disservice to the PT and to all of Miami. This is like getting Michael Vick to come speak about why you shouldn’t engage in dog fighting. It is a slap in the face and belittles the animal behavior and professional dog training profession and advocates outdated, abusive, advice not given by any educated professional. It is my opinion that it delegitimizes the Pets’ Trust as well. Just as disconcerting is the subtle yet palpable mentioning and selling of Millan’s “training and behavior advice” to raise more money for the PT
In the email sent to myself and countless others on May 23, 2013, Cesar Millan was referred to as an “Animal Behaviorist” and invited dinner guests to “Learn the psychology to help you improve your relationship with your dog…” Please note the term animal behaviorist is very misleading at best and nefarious at worst. It is not attached to any specific qualification or level of schooling unless preceded by “veterinary” or “certified applied animal.” It can be used by anyone, including someone with no formal education or experience in companion animal behavior. Any fool can use it to beguile an innocent family and pet owners as many dog trainers and “animal behaviorists” do here in Miami.
Fun Paw Care does not support any association with intransigent Cesar Millan or his foundation as it is tainted by his abusive practices. If the PT insists on brown nosing to Millan it would have at the very least, been in better taste, more tactful and appropriate to solely align the Pets’ Trust with Millan’s rescue foundation and not coalesce and involve him by mentioning the inappropriate parts mentioned above.
The Pets’ Trust Disconnect
The chasm grows wider. There seems to be some disconnect between what the PT is saying about the behavior initiative and what the PT is doing. When the PT takes no official stance on the behavior, training and education front, and then invites Millan to speak about how to train your dog and cognitive ethology, they quietly advocate abuse. Stand for something or fall for anything. The implication from a lack of a position statement, and PT’s quietness speaks volumes loud and clear. Make no mistake; to ask Cesar Millan his opinion, invite him to speak at a PT fundraiser or to place him on an informal or formal national board in any way related to the PT is worse than saying nothing. This endorses abuse and abdicates responsibility and an animal’s rights.
The Pets’ Trust: a National Model?
Many months later we are still witnessing the desire to make the PT a national model before one dog or cat has been saved here in Miami. The PT focus needs to be on doing this correct locally, to lead by positive and humane example, not on aspirations of a nationwide adoption model.
I know these are burning question with The Pets’ Trust community, many supporters, me and my constituents. In an effort to uncover the facts and make the PT more transparent and less like a whangdoodle, I will keenly observe how the rest of this amorphous organization unfolds.
We are a model for change in our community and Miami has passed a straw ballot to support our community dogs and cats humanely, not the nations. As I mention in one of my Pets’ Trust articles it is vital not to put the cart before the horse. We started out trying to save 20,000+ dogs and cats from needlessly being killed in our backyard. And that is where it shall stay prior to its dilution and franchisability.
The PT was never presented to the voters as a “national model” and people voted and cared for the Pets’ Trust in large part because of all of the humane, science based educators fighting to do the right/humane thing. We must combat reality TV shows misinformation and harmful advice. Of course everyone wants to stop the killing of animals but not just so they may endure abuse another day! That is just perverse. The PT needs to take a strong stance on education and humane treatment of animals as that is the core tenant of what we are doing, saving animals and acting humanely. Humane treatment of animals does not stop at a rescue organization or shelter.
Humane treatment is intertwined and inseparable with education, training and treating animals humanely as well as education with up-to-date, scientifically proven methodologies, not misinformation or neanderthalic inhumane practices. Doing anything less would weaken the PT agenda and meaning. I would not vote or support a bill to save an animal and on the same hand hire an animal abuser/inhumane person to kick, hit, bully, intimidate, choke, shock or flood a dog into submission or worse yet, ask their opinion to represent and to raise money for the PT, implying values are aligned. These mission statements do not and cannot coexist and it is important if the PT has these grandiose national model plans to incorporate humane treatment in the behavior initiative portion of the PT as they are inextricably connected and there can be no separation or blurred lines. The PT should be acting as a role model and I see no other way to do that than requiring humane treatment of animals.
Money or fame doesn’t sway my morality or ethics; without those a human is not humane. If it is so important for the PT to have a national model and to support positive reinforcement dog training and behavior experts there are many in our local area (and around the world) that would be more than happy to assist without requiring fame or money. The least we can do is lead by example and humanely isn’t that at the core of the PT.
What’s the Big Deal?
Many of you may be asking what’s the big deal if the PT feels the need to involve Cesar Millan to get adequate “celebrity” support. I would venture to guess that you may change your tune if you were on the frontline trying to convince families not to return their dog/s to the shelter (likely to be killed) because the dog was fearful after they tried what Millan advocates in his books and media and now the dog bites. If you dedicate your life to animal rights, education and fighting ignorance and harmful advice spread by Cesar Millan I am sure you too would be incensed and offended.
Cesar deplorably hijacks rescue for abuse. The adherence to the age old maxim “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln was never more appropriate.
There shouldn’t be any direct or indirect alignment or association with a reality TV show host who trumpets decades old harmful, abusive advice to innocent families throughout the world. We support compassion, non-violent, force free education and we don’t make exceptions to raise capital or get media attention. There are other, more ethical and helpful ways of going about building awareness and raising funds and support just as the PT did with their grass roots believers pre-election. Raging schizophrenia and a sado-maso fetish is now a core prerequisite for anyone who wishes to follow the daily falsities that sociopath Cesar Millan spews with impunity.
We would argue (as we have before in our gripe with the Humane Society of Greater Miami ignorance) that saving dogs only to subject them to abuse is unnecessary, ignorant, cruel and barbaric. This is something Fun Paw Care does not support, just as we do not support saving animals just to be used and enslaved in and by factory farms or by puppy mills. The paradox of saving animals only to make them victims of puppy mills, abusive traditional trainers or factory farms that kill and torture boils our blood.
The criticisms of the Pets’ Trust does not mean Fun Paw Care does not want to save every dog and cat (and all animals) from needless death, pain and torture. Quite the contrary is true, we do! But we certainly have some disagreements about the direction of, the associations with, and the message being sent by the PT. We do not have an agenda, we could not care less about fame or money, nor do we have any agenda against any person or organization that stands with or without us. What we do care passionately about is defending the voiceless, animal rights, ethology and cognitive ethology.
Phantasmagorical Cesar Millan’s murky agenda is materialized through the misleading unctuous use of the term “animal behaviorist”, “dog psychologist” and relationship specialist and rehabilitation crap spewed to the public and perverts and distorts the sobriquet “dog whisperer.” This is precisely why FPC does not use the terminology “animal behaviorist” in any of our literature to mislead the public in an already confusing and unregulated dog training and behavior industry.
Heck, I’m just one person, what do I know. This update was for you. What do you think Miami?