No matter who you talk to, when it comes to reducing the number of stray pets out there, the most important thing most of us can do is remove the family jewels from the family dog (or cat). This summer, San Antonians will hear this message from Cesar Millan, a.k.a. The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic cable TV channel. Millan chose San Antonio to kick off the Millan Foundation’s campaign to encourage the Hispanic community to spay and neuter their pets. The three-city tour also visits Houston and Los Angeles. In advance of his July 8 appearane at the SNAP Clinic, Millan spoke to us about the campaign’s goals.
C: Hi, how are you?
CM: Very good. How are you? How’s San Antonio?
C: It’s great. You’ll be here in a week. Why are you starting off your campaign in San Antonio?
CM: A few months ago, I was there and I talked to the mayor of San Antonio and I told him I wanted to be part of the biggest movement in the Latino community for us to become aware of how we can help America a little bit more, especially in the pet community. More and more Latinos are making their dogs like family members. I know for a fact that a lot of us don’t know how many dogs die each year and how we can actually help America not to go through such a horrible experience. I always keep my word, so I’m going back.
C: This campaign is being launched by a Hispanic marketing firm. Can you tell me a little more about tailoring this message to a Hispanic audience?
CM: It has always been my dream to reach out to my people. At one point, I said, you know what, I want us to help America a little bit more and the way we can help is to make Latinos aware of spay and neuter. Lopez Negrete [the Houston-based marketing firm] came on board and said they would love to help achieve that dream. They believe in it and they know why we’re suggesting spay and neuter and they want to do it for free with us. It’s a way for us Latinos again to step up to the plate and show America how much we love the country.
C: Here in San Antonio, when we discuss our stray animal issues, there’s been some suggestion, although it seems there’s not too much research to back it up, that the Hispanic community is less likely to spay and neuter their pets. I wondered if that perception has anything to do with this campaign?
CM: This belief system about dogs being neutered and spayed and their spirit will go away, or certain … what would it be called … sort of like an imagination … it’s like a stigma. An unrealistic stigma. [ED NOTE: At the time, I couldn’t think of the word either, although upon reflection, I think it may be ‘superstition.’] All my dogs are spayed or neutered. One thing I tell people is that in America, intact dogs are not going to live freely, they’re not going to have girlfriends or mates. So, realistically speaking, they’re not going to be able to achieve their biological goal, which is to mate with someone. They’re going to be deprived of social behavior more because they’re carrying the scent. Intact, meaning he’s not spayed or neutered, is going to have less friends and is going to enjoy the country much less, because they’re going to have to treat him in a certain way. Even if a dog that is intact doesn’t want to mate, just the fact that he has a scent, the other dogs are going to be triggered by the scent. You see it?
C: Uh … yeah. [ED NOTE: Upon reflection, I have no idea what Millan was talking about. But I looked up some related information via the ASPCA. Click this link and see “social problems.”]
CM: It’s knowledge that we’re lacking and I know that Latinos like to learn from another Latino. I know a lot of Latinos respect what I have to say and respect my knowledge. I think sometimes it takes one of your own to tell you why something is so important, for whatever reason. I know the caucasian community has reached out in the past, but they have not been successful. I believe because I come from Mexico and have been in America 18 years, I know what it is to have that belief system and I know how not to convince them in a way that you force them, but in a way where they do it on their own. You motivate people and you inspire people to do it for the benefit of their family, for the benefit of their dog. Many times they don’t realize that an intact dog can develop prostate cancer. An intact dog gets frustrated more because he’s not mating, so the possibility of a dog biting is higher because of the frustration level. You see what I’m saying?
C: I do. Can you go through the main points that the campaign is going to highlight?
CM: It’s going to highlight spay and neuter and why it’s so important. It’s going to highlight the numbers of dogs dying every year. A lot of people don’t know it, because it goes on behind closed doors. It’s 4.5 million dogs and cats that die in shelters each year. This is kept away from the public. Until we know, how can we help? How can we decrease this? I have to help the Hispanic community realize that this is a very kind thing to do. Those dogs that don’t have the house that you are willing to give, where are they going to end up?
C: Can you draw the connection between how many animals die each year and spaying and neutering?
CM: The end result is 4.5 million dogs and cats. They’re gonna die. Why? Because they don’t have a home. The shelters are overpopulated. The strongest breeds are gonna die quicker, even if they don’t have a psychological problem. Even if they’re the sweetest dog in the world. Just because they’re big or they’re black or they’re strong-looking, they’re not going to have the chance to live the rest of their lives. Preventing this from happening is key. By spaying and neutering our dogs, we will regulate the amount of dogs that live in the country. I don’t think we can ever have a shortage of dogs in the world. I think America has been a leader in many areas and this is a way for us to also lead by example. As Latinos, we have always jumped on board when help was needed. We just need to know how.
C: What are some ways to encourage people to spay and neuter? Does there need to be laws that make it mandatory? Or…
CM: Laws create tension, I think the best thing we can do is to motivate people, so they’re doing it because it’s their own decision. When you start doing things mandatory, you’re going to start creating fight and flight. Every time there’s a law, many people are not going to agree with it because they have their own agenda. But this is an agenda that is not about us. This is an agenda about someone we already love. It’s not so much about a human law, but a life law, a spiritual law. We have respect regardless, no matter who it is. In this case it’s someone who makes our life better, who loves us for who we are. Even if we have no money, even if we are illegal, even if our life is not going too good at that moment, we can always count on a dog. So, this is the time that they can count on us. They’re not asking to be born and then killed. What they’re asking is for us to make a concious decision, an agreement with each other. A dog doesn’t know what you do for a living, a dog doesn’t know if you’re Democrat or Republican, Muslim or Jewish, Catholic or Christian. He just knows if you’re a good person or not.
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