By Tim Hockley, CEO and Publisher of Animal Wellness Magazine
We firmly believe that animals do not need fear-motivated training in order to overcome behaviors. Sure, an animal (or person, for that matter) will eventually succumb to force and do what you want, but then you’re left with a bond centered around fear instead of love.
I wanted to write this letter in response to the open-letter from the St. Louis Expo in order to state that we are behind them 100% with their stance on positive training.
As a sponsor of the St. Louis Pet Expo, we were very pleased that they were taking a stand against aggressive training and that they would only allow positive training products and promotion at the expo. After all, positive training is one of the Four Pillars of Animal Wellness and is a key factor in helping our animal companions lead a long and healthy life.
This is why we were saddened to receive an open-letter from the St. Louis Pet Expo explaining that select individuals felt their stance on positive training was a “joke.” Several vendors skirted the policies and had aggressive training products at their booths, while others criticized positive training behind the organizers’ backs.
Sheila Rilenge, president of show development for the expos, explained, “As you know, we made a major change this year by prohibiting companies and trainers who use aversive techniques from participating in our event. Trainers or behaviorists (or any other type of exhibitor), may no longer sell or demonstrate pinch collars, choke collars, heavy chain collars/leads or electric/shock collars at the STL Pet Expo; this also includes invisible fence products. We also won’t tolerate Alpha rolls, hard neck or body ‘pokes’ and leash jerks.
Organizing and producing an event of this magnitude is a challenge and an on-going learning experience. We are the ONLY pet expo in the United States who has enacted this policy and, in doing so, have put our money where our mouth is.
We’re not saying this to complain or whine, as we were well-prepared for the fall-out, but we are sharing it in order to better explain: we lost a major sponsor, numerous exhibitors, have been verbally abused, threatened with a boycott and received hate mail.”
What is upsetting to me, as the CEO and co-founder of a magazine that provides education about animal wellness, is that anyone could be against positive training policies at an animal-based event. Our animal companions should always be treated with kindness and respect. How can anyone be against that?
Moving forward, we will continue to provide more education about positive training, with the hopes that more people will become involved with the positive training and animal wellness movements.