AVSAB Letter to Merial

June 10, 2009 at 6:59am

Dear Dr. Line,

The executive board of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior is deeply troubled to learn that Merial, a leader in the veterinary healthcare industry, is using Cesar Millan in a promotional campaign for Heartgard and Frontline. We are even more disturbed to find that Merial is cross-promoting Mr. Millan's behavior video as part of this campaign. Merial's executives may not be aware of the fact that the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) and the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT) have uniformly spoken out against the punishment-based techniques employed by Mr. Millan on his television show "The Dog Whisperer."

At best, the show is entertaining but misleading to pet owners. At worst, Mr. Millan's techniques and misinformation have contributed to increased aggression and anxiety or resulted in physical injury to the pet and/or pet owner. As practicing veterinarians, we all unfortunately have seen many cases of the latter. Merial claims to "enhance the health, well-being, and performance of animals.” The use of Mr. Millan as part of an advertising campaign speaks otherwise.

In these difficult economic times, it may be understandable that Merial would want to use a "celebrity" to advertise its products in a direct-to-consumer fashion. However, had Merial taken the time to investigate, it would have found that Mr. Millan's philosophy runs counter to the standard-of-care promoted by veterinary behaviorists and taught at veterinary schools.

We are deeply saddened that Merial's executives are not more supportive of the veterinary behavior community and its efforts to promote knowledgeable, scientifically-based, humane training methods. We remain concerned that your company's support of Mr. Millan’s controversial training methods through the distribution of his video and financial support of his show will contribute to the number of difficult dogs and injured owners that we have to eventually console, counsel, and reeducate. Perhaps Merial would like to support our efforts to counteract the negative impact of this unfortunate marketing choice that may ultimately serve to alienate educated veterinarians, dog trainers, and owners alike.

Sincerely,

E. Kathryn Meyer, VMD (President)
John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB (Immediate Past President)
Karen Sueda, DVM, DACVB (President Elect)
Kari Krause, DVM
Kelly Morgan, DVM
Valli Parthasarathy, PhD, DVM
Sophia Yin, PhD, DVM
Laurie Bergman, VMD, DACVB