Shelter director Linda Blakely says Millan inspired the shift at Iowa-based Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary & Rescue from a kill to a no-kill facility, and that his methods led to a drop in returned adoptees, from 30 to 40 percent to less than 1 percent. “We decided there was a better way to save lives,” she says. The shelter’s expansion will include a center modeled after Millan’s Dog Psychology Center, for dogs exhibiting anxiety, fear and aggression.
Despite success stories, not everyone agrees with his approach. “Cesar looks at dogs from the pack-animal mentality that says there always has to be an alpha,” says Michelle Rivera, a dog evaluator who’s licensed by the Delta Society, which certifies service and therapy animals for work. “I don’t look at it that way. Dogs are pack animals. They have more of a motive to get along with everyone else.”
“I know people think it’s not the macho thing to do to spay or neuter your dog. But it’s the humane thing to do.”
Critics or not, Millan is building a center near Los Angeles that he hopes will be a national model: “Just as there are parks for sports and libraries for learning, there should be places where people come and experience dogs in their natural state.”
If Millan sounds evangelical about his work, it’s because he is. He and his wife, Ilusion, founded the Millan Foundation in 2007 to help rescue, rehabilitate and re-home abused and abandoned dogs. Although the couple’s 16-year marriage is ending—she filed for divorce in June—the foundation continues offering financial and educational support to nonprofits, especially no-kill facilities. He takes his message everywhere. In Miami, where several pit bull breeds are banned, Millan spoke against breed-specific legislation. Millan’s sons—Andre, 15, and Calvin, 9—have been raised around the breed.
And it’s not all about dogs; it’s about being human, too. His grandfather’s lessons live on. “What he represented to me was wisdom,” Millan says. “Get close to younger generations. We’re all related in a human manner.”