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Cesar Millan, the ‘Dog Whisperer,’ investigated for animal cruelty — against a pig

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/03/2016 Yanan Wang

Cesar Millan is the host of “Cesar 911″ on National Geographic. © National Geographic Channel Cesar Millan is the host of “Cesar 911″ on National Geographic. Simon is a classic Cesar Millan show character.

In a Feb. 26 Cesar 911 episode that aired on National Geographic, the part-French bulldog, part-terrier was described by those who know him as a “terror.” “He hates all dogs,” his human acquaintances said, and worse: he once killed a pet potbellied pig.

Jody Orr, the co-founder of a shar-pei dog rescue operation called “Pei People,” put it bluntly: “We call him Satan behind his back.”

All these qualities made Simon ripe for the Millan treatment. For eight years, the 46-year-old hosted the series “Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan,” on which he rehabilitated the behavior of “problem dogs,” unruly dogs that wreaked havoc in their owners’ homes.

The National Geographic series gained a large following and made Millan a celebrity, even as his techniques were criticised by other animal behaviourists for overusing force and dismissing positive reinforcement.

The television personality is now being investigated for possible animal cruelty, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Sheriff’s deputies with Los Angeles County Animal Control visited Millan’s Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita, La., Thursday evening, but he was away on a business trip, a family member told NBC.

The animal welfare officials had received several inquiries after the episode with Simon, which showed the dog biting a pig’s ear during a training session led by Millan.

A 24-hour notice has been issued, requiring him to contact the investigators, according to NBC. They want to know what has happened to the pig since the episode’s filming.

The contentious incident took place inside a fenced yard, where Millan was conditioning Simon to become accustomed to the pigs’ company. This concluded with Simon bounding towards a pig which appeared to be restrained by one of Millan’s assistants. Simon proceeded to bite the pig and leave the area around its ear bloodied.

“Simon ripped the ear off the pig,” said Simon’s owner, Sandy. “It was a bloodbath.”

Meanwhile, Millan chased the pig around the yard, repeating, “I got this.”

In a statement to NBC, a representative from National Geographic said:

Cesar Millan has dedicated his life to helping dogs and to showing how even the most difficult ‘problem dog’ can be rescued and rehabilitated….A short clip from the episode was shared online and showed Simon chasing a pig and nipping its ear, causing the ear to bleed. The clip caused some concern for viewers who did not see or understand the full context of the encounter.

The statement continued: “It is important to clarify that Cesar took precautions, such as putting Simon on a long lead to assess his behavior, making initial corrections and removing the leash. The pig that was nipped by Simon was tended to immediately afterward, healed quickly and showed no lasting signs of distress.”

An additional clip provided by the channel shows the same pig that was attacked by Simon now “taking [the dog] for a walk” as the two are linked by a leash, learning to coexist.

“Don’t eat the pig, but you can eat with the pig,” Millan explained.

More than 8300 people have signed a petition calling for Millan to be reported to animal control, the American Humane Society and the Los Angeles City Attorney because of the episode, citing California state law against cruelty to animals.

Another petition with nearly 10,000 signatures declared that Millan should be “banned from all television.”

Millan’s technique hinges on applying “dominance theory,” which is derived from an understanding of how wolves compete to be “alphas” within their packs. Millan believes that dogs that display aggression are attempting to gain dominance over their owners, and the humans in their lives must in turn establish themselves as “alphas” in the relationship, using force if necessary.

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