Cesar Millan, better known as the “Dog Whisperer” on National Geographic, has never had a shortage of creative tactics for reforming canine behavior.
But none of them has sparked more controversy than the one he employed during a Feb. 26 “Cesar 911″ episode, when he used a terrified potbellied pig to teach an unruly French bulldog named Simon behavioral lessons.
Simon — who had a history of murdering pigs — bit the pig’s ear during a training session led by Millan, drawing blood, and later the outrage of animal welfare activists.
Sheriff’s deputies with Los Angeles County animal control visited Millan’s Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita, Calif., last month, leading some to wonder whether the man who made a career out of helping animals would instead be formally accused of mistreating them.
Not so, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, ending speculation that Los Angeles County animal control officials would levy charges against the dog expert.
“After a comprehensive investigation by our officers, we presented a very thorough and complete report to the district attorney’s office, and they were unable to find anything to charge Mr. Millan with,” Aaron Reyes, deputy director for animal care and control, told the Times. “It’s a fair decision.”
Reyes said investigators watched video footage of the incident multiple times and took a look at the injured pig. They also asked for the names of everyone who appeared in the episode and conducted interviews with staff from the television show and reviewed veterinary reports, the Times reported.
“You can tell that it was not intentional and [Millan’s] reactions were swift and effective,” he added. “The injuries to the pig looked worse than they really were, and they got immediate veterinary care.”
The contentious incident took place inside a fenced yard, where Millan was conditioning Simon to become accustomed to the pig’s company. This concluded with Simon bounding toward a pig that appeared to be restrained by one of Millan’s assistants. Simon proceeded to bite the pig and leave the area around its ear bloodied.
Meanwhile, Millan chased the pig around the yard, repeating, “I got this.”
Simon’s owner, Sandy, said it revived her memory of a previous incident in which Simon had bitten a pig’s ear off. “It was a bloodbath,” Sandy said.
More than 13,700 people signed a Change.org petition calling for Millan to be reported to animal control, the American Humane Association and the Los Angeles city attorney because of the episode, citing California state law against cruelty to animals.
Another petition with nearly 12,000 signatures declared that Millan should be “banned from all television.”
“The clip caused some concern for viewers who did not see or understand the full context of the encounter,” National Geographic Wild said in a statement cited by the Times. “The pig that was nipped by Simon was tended to immediately afterward, healed quickly and showed no lasting signs of distress.”
While the investigation unfolded, the Times reported, Millan remained steadfast in his assertion that his training tactic did not constitute abuse. In a statement published by the Times, Millan reiterated his dedication to animal welfare.
“My team and I are 100 percent dedicated to the proper care of all animals, including the farm pig in this case,” he said. “I am continuing my work rescuing and rehabilitating even the most difficult problem dogs, which has saved the lives of thousands of animals that otherwise would have been euthanized.”