Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On harassment, misogyny, and what is slander, really?

One might wonder what this particular post would have to do with dogs. After all, this is a blog devoted to dogs: training, rescue, transports, and other assorted things. The unfortunate reality is that this post is all too relevant to this blog.

Nearly a year ago I made a post with some information on how to go about finding a trainer, entitled "Be careful of who you go to training for." This was a serious post as it's a serious topic to me. There are many people out there claiming to be dog trainers. One does not need a degree or even certification to start up a dog training business. Some of them have studied hard, apprenticed, and constantly search for new ways to train. They read up on the latest learning studies and animal behavior studies and they're always looking for the most dog-friendly, the most humane ways to train. Some of them have done a little bit of training and while they may not bring harm to your dog, they're really rank beginners, trying to find their way in the world. These folks aren't bad, but you can do much better. And then there are the folks who will inflict great damage to your dogs. They use choke chains and hang the dogs until they submit. They use shock collars and shock your dog until it shuts down and does what you want it to do out of sheer fright.

And the other thing they do? They intimidate anyone who attempts to speak out against their cruel methods.

I have had a few responses to my original post. One told me my opinion doesn't "amount to a hill of beans" despite not knowing my background. That's fine. That person is allowed to have that opinion, though I might say the same thing about his opinion.

Another tracked me down on a different site to offer his opinion of my dog and her supposed lack of training, not showing any sort of understanding that the one and only video I had posted was of a dog that had just come into my life and had no training prior to me. Considering I'd had her for a month at the time and she was off leash, I would say her training was progressing quite well at the time.

Two have thanked me for steering them clear of a trainer they were considering. These were the people I was ultimately trying to reach and I'm thankful that I may have saved two dogs from a horrible experience.

And then there's the other response, that which the title speaks to. One person has been harassing me for nearly a year now. It began last October with extremely nasty e-mails full of insults. This included insulting my name, my supposed heritage, my hair colour, and my gender. It included calling me a whore and other names that I won't even repeat here as they are truly that offensive.

Eventually this person moved on to trying to get on my good side in order to get me to remove the post. Now, why would I want to do that? All the post did was point out reviews other people had made, reviews that should make anyone leery. They were used as an example of what one might find when searching for reviews of a trainer they are considering. When looking for reviews, you always expect to find a mix of negative and positive. It's rare for any place or any person to have 100% positive or 100% negative reviews. What this means is that, as a consumer, you need to weigh the pros and cons of the various reviews. We do this all the time when we go to buy something electronic. I have spent countless hours reading reviews, both positive and negative, before buying a computer or a camera. I decide if the negatives are something I can live with or not and how far the positives outweigh the negatives. When it comes to dog training, I'm even more careful because this one affects a life. If I buy a camera that turns out to be a piece of junk, it affects nothing except my wallet. If I take my dog to a cruel trainer, I can damage that dog psychologically for life.

When it comes to this particular person, the handful of negative reviews still up should be enough to make any sane person steer clear. Couple that with mentions of illegal activities and lost dogs and this would make me say "no thanks" to that person's training.

So now that begging has not worked, this person has moved onto harassment. He has tracked me down to the various places I am on the web. He has tracked down my real name, address and phone number. He even claims to have my social security number, surely something that would be of great concern to the FBI as identity theft is something they take quite seriously. He has written threatening notes to my partner about hiring a private detective and has threatened me with a slander lawsuit. Now, before even contemplating the content of the post, let's look carefully at what slander actually is.

"Slander is the oral communication of false statements that are harmful to a person's reputation."

So even if anyone believed these statements are false or harmful to a person's reputation, it cannot be slander as it is not oral.

What he really means to attempt to intimidate me with is libel.

"Libel is the written act of defamation, vs. slander, the oral act of defamation."

I think anyone would be hard-pressed to define what I said as libel. It is my opinion that I would avoid going to him for training. This opinion is based on reviews that I linked to, reviews that were not written by myself and therefore do not fall under the larger defamation umbrella.  He has attempted to intimidate the people writing those reviews in much the same way, but they are still up and on the internet. Why? Because they know that what they wrote falls under free speech. He has no case.

In other words, he's just a bully.


  1. Oh man. I had (have?) a blogstalker too, though she doesn't sound anywhere near as bad as yours (though she claims to have my name, address, etc). I never had anything to do with her, she just arrived at my website via somebody else she was harassing and decided I offended her delicate sensibilities.

    What killed me was she used her professional name, her professional website, her professional email ON her abusive comments. Yeah, THAT would make me want to choose you as a dog trainer.

    People are nuts. Your best bet is to just block them and ignore them.

  2. Thanks for your comment Katie! It's hard to believe that so many dog trainers out there can act in such a way. I know exactly who the person harassing me is. He's written to me with his real name and link to his website, so I know exactly what moron is stalking and trying to harass me online. His e-mail address is blocked and I've blocked him from commenting on my blog and from contacting me via facebook. He's just blowing smoke.

    Maybe if these lousy folks spent more time learning how to train dogs and less harassing people who call them out on their bad handling skills and cruelty, they might have more clients.

  3. Egads, people like that seem to get more aggressive about things they know they're wrong about. Sorry to hear this trainer's giving you such hassle! As someone newer to training, I just want to say thanks to you for speaking up so that owners know about the good, bad & the ugly of dog training and can make an informed decision to keep their dog happy & safe!