Friday, April 10, 2009

From An Executive Producer of Cesar Millan

Okay, so rule #1 about blogging: most non-professional bloggers such as myself are not journalists. We don't have time to fact-check everything or chase down all the articles we link to, etc. Blogging is sort of a citizen sport, more about commentary and opinion than reporting. Nonetheless we have a moral obligation to try at least to be accurate.

My last post took Cesar Millan and his program to task for focusing too much on domination and not enough on the nuances of psychology -- I suppose when you have a weekly show to do, it can get kind of formulaic and frankly that's what I think of the show.

So a web savvy or surfing producer of the show emailed me earlier a long email in their defense, and that's fine, frankly I didn't read it closely but I will try to paste in some of the main points below to help round out the discussion, and lord knows I appreciate the time she took to defend her work and respect that she did so.

I sincerely regret not knowing that the lawsuit mentioned in the previous post was apparently settled in 2007 according to the producer, and I trust her. And I have neither the time nor the interest to research it further - but in the era of Google, you dear reader already have everything you need if you should so choose to do so yourself.

Frankly I'm already bored with this post. So without further adieu, here is I suppose a legitimate email from an executive producer of Cesar Millan's The Dog Whisperer. I told her I would post a follow up including snippets of her email but also that I stand by my post and my opinion, and I do. She was polite in her response. Now to follow through.

We placed our success rate (that is, long-term dog rehab success) at about 80% based on that book, which only covered the first three seasons. We are now filming our 6th season and have had even more impressive successes, primarily because we have been able to do more long-term follow-ups and repeat visits with cases, which we weren't able to do because of budgetary reasons back when we began Season 1.

Not only is the show real, the crew likes to call it "the only REAL reality show on television." Nothing -absolutely nothing - is pre-scripted. Cesar knows nothing (or only a bare minimum of facts) about any case before he goes on the consultation. Cesar won't repeat any of his actions for the camera (as is SOP, even in documentary work) because he says, "Dogs don't understand 'take 2'. He is there for the dog, 100%, and not the cameras - much to the frustration of the crew, but we've learned to adapt to each other over the past several years. ...

I'm not sure the defense above really answers the thrust of my criticism sufficiently, however I do recognize there are many angles to a complicated endeavor like producing a weekly show such as this. I accept results will be at best mixed, and to what degree exactly I don't know, and Ms. Peltier doesn't address fully (nor should she). I know what I know, she knows what she knows, and anyone reading this can think for themselves. More:

[The Humane Society] spent time on the set with us, and now are among our biggest supporters. In fact, they just collaborated with us on a powerful show about rescuing and rehabilitating puppy mill dogs. Ask the representatives of the prominent animal advocacy group Last Chance for Animals, or our thousands and thousands of friends and supporters in the Animal Rescue Community across the United States. Ask Martin Deeley, head of the IACP. You can even ask Ian Dunbar, the grandaddy of "positive reinforcement" training, who has met with Cesar personally (though I don't believe he's been on the set), and found that they share many more commonalities than differences.
Fair enough, I don't know about any of this, but I have no reason to distrust Ms. Peltier. And finally:
Finally, an FYI: the Flody Suarez lawsuit to which you referred was amicably settled in 2007. A read-through of the court records will show that although Cesar was named in the suit, the incident happened on his property only. Cesar was not even present when the incident occurred, but had loaned use of his treadmills to an accquaintance - a trainer not even associated with him. That was back in the day when Cesar would naively do favors for anyone who'd ever done him a favor. Unfortunately, celebrity attracts lawsuits and he has since learned the hard way not to be so blindly generous.

In short, you may or may not agree with Cesar's methods, which he himself asserts are just "options" for rehabilitation - but I assure you, the show itself is indeed "legitimate."

Sincerely yours,
Melissa Jo Peltier
Co-Chair, MPH Entertainment, Inc.

Well again I do sincerely regret not knowing that the lawsuit had been settled, and in my defense (although I don't have much of one on this point), I did say "If true..." I know, I know. I regret not knowing it had been settled (and no I haven't verified that either, I'm hungry, my dog needs to play, I don't really care).

As for the facts of what the lawsuit alleged, it makes no difference when it comes to the thrust of my commentary about the over-use of dominance I have witnessed on the program, my informed commentary about pit bulls (the point I care about the most), nor my notes about using a pinch collar.