TV’s dog whisperer denies link to ‘shaman’

January 19 2012 at 01:40pm


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NONTANDO MPOSO

Staff Reporter

THE OWNER of the Rottweiler that attacked a two-year-old girl at Clifton boasted on his website last week that he has spent time with animal behaviourist Cesar Millan.

But Millan, the star of the National Geographic show The Dog Whisperer and who counts Oprah Winfrey among his clients, has distanced himself from self-styled “dog shaman” James Lech.

The local animal behaviourist is listed on the American’s website under the heading “The following sites, products, individuals and events are NOT affiliated with Cesar Millan or Dog Whisperer”.

Lech has steadfastly refused to comment on last week’s attack on Clifton First Beach.

One of his three Rottweilers, which were not on leashes, attacked Meeka Riley Lackay while the girl was at the beach with her aunt.

It is the second time one of his dogs has been implicated in an attack on a child: in July it was reported that four-year-old Sadie Kukkuk was mauled by Lech’s Rottweiler inside Hyde Park shopping centre in Joburg.

The Cape Argus has contacted Lech several times following the attack on Meeka, and he has repeatedly promised to issue a statement.

Yesterday he responded via SMS: “Please refer to my blog and subscribe. It shall then be e-mailed to you as soon as it is released.”

The message continues: “As instructed by my advisers I cannot make any comments at this time but they are assisting me draft a public statement. You can respect that due to so much speculation and miss informed (sic) information; I wish to have all the backed up evidence so there can be no miss-quoting in the media. Thank you for your interest.”

The City of Cape Town’s spokeswoman, Kylie Hatton, said the Rottweiler that attacked Meeka might be put down next week.

“The city has laid charges against Lech for contravening the regulations governing the walking of dogs on beaches and was fined R1 500 for walking the dog(s) illegally,” she said. The dog was impounded by the Cape of Good Hope SPCA the day after the attack.

Yesterday, the inspectorate manager of the SPCA, Moyo Ndukwana, said Lech had been at the SPCA to visit his dog almost every day.

“We are still custodians for the impounded dog and are waiting for the city to contact us about the pending case against Lech.”

Meeka’s mother, Chanell Lackay, said her daughter would be admitted to the Cape Town Medi-Clinic today “to check if she needs more skin grafting”.

“Hopefully her bandages are coming off,” Lackay said.

She laid criminal charges with the police against Lech on Saturday and is seeking legal advice.

Cape Town animal behaviourist Karen Gray-Kilfoil urged people to check for qualifications and accreditation before trusting someone who claimed to be a “dog whisperer”.

“Anyone can claim to be a dog trainer or psychologist. The popularity of the Dog Whisperer TV show has made people more gullible and to believe that there are quick fixes to dog training.”

Gray-Kilfoil said that in SA, two active organisations were recommended for animal professionals: the SA Board of Companion Animal Professionals and the Ethology Academy.

Lech is not listed as a member of either organisation.

nontando.mposo@inl.co.za

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