Call to ban US dog trainer from Australia
MORE than 50,000 outraged animal lovers are calling on Australian politicians to ban an American dog trainer said to use "abusive and archaic" methods from coming to Australia.
A number of petitions have been started in countries where Jeff Gellman is scheduled to present seminars, including at least two asking for his visa to be cancelled to prevent him from coming to Brisbane in July.
Owner of Rhode Island-based Solid K9 Training, Mr Gellman, 53, can be seen on YouTube videos hitting, kicking and using shock collars on dogs, to the point they can be seen yelping.
A change.org petition started by certified dog trainer, Gayle Button, is titled Ban Abusive Dog Trainer Jeff Gellman - Australia has so far garnered 47,783 signatures out of a goal of 50,000.
The second petition, started by Lisa Westbury Shaw and titled 'Abusive dog training www.eventbrite.com/e/brisbane-australia-jeff-gellmans-2-day started has so far reached 5501 signatures out of a goal of 7500.
"We ask the Government to investigate why Australia is allowing dog trainer - Jeff Gellman - access to a Visa to Australia to be able to train dogs and their owners using abusive tools, cruelty and purposely cause fear and pain to the dogs he is training (sic)," Mrs Button's petition reads.
It states animals are as sentient beings and highlights points from Australia's Animal Welfare Act, including the requirement of owners of animals, and persons in charge of animals, to attend properly to the welfare of those animals.
"Jeff Gellman … has been engaging in and teaching dog training techniques that are scientifically unproven and harmful to dogs - oftentimes using tools that are banned in many countries…".
Mrs Button encouraged dog owners to seek help using modern, science-based rehabilitation via a qualified vet behaviourist.
"(Mr Gellman's) training methods are outdated, archaic and painfully abusive," she wrote.
Mrs Button, 56, told the Courier Mail she was appalled anyone who intentionally caused fear and pain to dogs in the name of training would be granted a visa to work in Australia.
Behaviour Veterinarian Rimni Quinn of Kind Animal Behaviour Services in Beerwah, said it was no longer recommended nor advisable to train dogs with punishment.
"There are so many problems that can come out of using that technique," she said.
"It's not teaching the dog, it's inhibiting the behaviour. It also might create another behaviour the owner also does not want … and punishment can be harmful to the dogs themselves.
Dr Quinn, 47, said discovering and treating the underlying reason for a dog's behaviour was not always the quickest option, but it was the best.
"If a punishment method was working in the short term, one of the fallouts would be to the welfare of that animal long-term and that's too big a thing to not look at," she said.
She said some dogs also succumbed to learned helplessness.
"They sort of give up. It's equivalent to what people call depression," she said.
"They can't do anything right, so they stop trying."
Dr Quinn said positive reinforcement training has been scientifically proven over many years to be the best way.
"It's a studied field and it's universal. It works for dogs and people," she said.
Dr Quinn said a dog with issues should also be assessed by a veterinarian.
Barbara Hodel, dog trainer and president of the Pet Professional Guild of Australia, said she was "flabbergasted" that some people still used archaic training methods.
"We know these days there is no need to use force to train pets. The force (Gellman) uses is abusive.
"He really hits them and uses shock, prong and check collars, you name it - all these tools that modern dog training has long, long said goodbye to."
The Courier Mail understands Mr Gellman has not yet applied for a visa to enter Australia.
The businessman - who previously owned a sex store, according to the Providence Journal - has also copped backlash from animal lovers and groups from the UK to New Zealand, particularly after a video of him hitting a dog with a rolled-up towel went viral.
He has allegedly turned to keeping locations of some of his seminars in Scotland secret.
Tickets to his Brisbane seminar range from $600 to $1000.
Mr Gellman, who said he has helped thousands of "difficult" and aggressive dogs over his 15 years in the training industry, has also started his own GoFundMe account to support legal and public relations bills.
"Due to the recent events that have put my company, Solid K9 Training, myself, and my family under massive attack across the globe, I have decided it is no longer time to sit back and ignore the threats that have been coming to me by the thousands," he wrote on Facebook.
"What started as a helpful video that I created to educate my followers has been edited and shared around the world to meet someone else's agenda.
"Social media has allowed everyone to have a voice, and unfortunately it's creating international witch hunts and death wishes upon me and my family."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs said the department did not comment on individual cases, but said all foreign nationals approved for a visa must satisfy the requirements of the Migration Act 1958.
Mrs Shaw, 47, said if Mr Gellman's July seminars proceed, she hopes they will be monitored.
"There must be biosecurity, AWL and police presence," she said.
"And they must have the power, the minute those dogs show signs of distress, to shut the event down."