‘No Animals Were Harmed’ Doesn’t Apply to Reality Shows

Dog trainer Cesar Millan made news headlines recently when a dog attacked a pig during the filming of his reality show, “Cesar 911.” The County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control is investigating the incident.

The case is troubling, as is this question: Why wasn’t a representative from the American Humane Association (AHA) on set to ensure the production met the organization’s “No Animals Were Harmed” criteria — and perhaps help prevent this attack?

“Animal abuse is never acceptable, and should never be tolerated,” the AHA said in a statement after the “Cesar 911″ incident. “As this country’s first national humane organization, we are always vigilant about stopping abuse wherever it occurs.”

According to the AHA’s guidelines for animals on reality programming, it does not condone “the use of private pets for film and television work, whether it is an extra’s pet or a reality show contestant’s pet.”

Nevertheless, the guidelines recommend that reality shows use more than one AHA certified animal safety representative to monitor animals on and off camera. An animal exhibiting “aggression toward another animal or person should be removed from the show.”

So why wasn’t at least one certified animal safety representative attending the filming of “Cesar 911?” The dog, Simon, was aggressive with another dog before attacking the pig.

“Sadly we are not invited to protect the animals featured in reality television productions,” the AHA said in its statement. The organization called on the entertainment industry to allow AHA reps on all TV and film productions, reality or otherwise.

‘Maybe Some Animals Were Harmed’

Unfortunately, it’s not very likely the entertainment industry will be eager to make this happen anytime soon. And would it even make a difference? According to a 2013 Hollywood Reporter investigative report, animals have been injured or killed on productions that were supervised by the AHA yet still received the ”No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval.

Founded in 1877 to protect children, pets and farm animals from abuse, the AHA began monitoring Hollywood productions in 1940, after a horse was forced to jump off a cliff to its death during filming of the 1939 movie “Jesse James.” At the time, the Association of Motion Picture Producers (now known as the AMPTP, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) gave the AHA “open access to the sets of all movies using animals,” according to the AHA.

Nearly eight decades later, the organization has “undeniably improved the care and safety of animals in Hollywood,” wrote Gary Baum in the Hollywood Reporter story. However, the AHA’s Film & TV Unit is funded by the entertainment industry that it’s covering, creating a conflict of interest – “a situation where the industry is bankrolling its regulator,” Baum wrote.

Six AHA employees told Baum the organization distorts animal safety ratings, fails to publicize incidents in which animals were harmed, and doesn’t seriously investigate these cases. Internal AHA documents, including incident logs and emails, supported these claims.

Also disturbing is the fact that productions can still receive the “No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval if an animal was unintentionally harmed, or was harmed when the cameras weren’t rolling.

“Most times, when animals are harmed related to productions, it doesn’t have to do with act of malice,” Baum told NPR. “It has to do with some sort of passive negligence. They’ve decided that they are not going to count those instances. They aren’t going to investigate them.”

In a statement to NPR, the AHA said animal abuse in film and entertainment “is not pervasive, as the salacious headlines imply. Rather, our experience is that most everyone we work with in production settings wants to do right by the animals, as do we.”

If the AHA truly wants to do right by the animals, it should not allow the entertainment industry to influence its assessment of the treatment of animals in film and TV productions. While the AHA is waiting (and waiting) for an invitation from the entertainment industry to allow its reps on reality productions, perhaps it could advocate for reforms that make such supervision a requirement.

We can help by refusing to watch reality shows (and other TV shows and movies) featuring live animals that may have been mistreated. This worked when many viewers boycotted the HBO show “Luck” after it was reported that four horses died during its production. The series was cancelled after one season.

Photo credit: YouTube


Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A8 months ago

I do not watch Caesar Milan, I do not like him, his methods, or his show.

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer8 months ago

Also disturbing is the fact that productions can still receive the “No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval if an animal was unintentionally harmed, or was harmed when the cameras weren’t rolling. WOW!

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga8 months ago

Ceasar milan is evil

william Miller
william Miller2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

suzie c.
suzie c3 years ago


sandra vito
Sandra Vito3 years ago


Renata B.
Renata B3 years ago

This man has an appalling record of official cruelty and consistent bullying of animals in his "care". He bases his so called training on imposing himself with violence a hierarchical attitude that promotes abuse. Yes, dogs are pack animals and need guidance and hierarchy, but not so much. With love and kindness and a firm hand when really needed, you can get wonderful results. I already said it in the past: this man should seriously see a good psychoanalyst. He suffer from macho disease!!!!!!

KAREN SickAgain G.
Karen Gee3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Rae Nelson
Rae Nelson3 years ago

So sad & troubling!