LOS ANGELES — Celebrity dog whisperer Cesar Millan is under investigation over allegations of animal cruelty.
Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control is looking into complaints originating with an episode of Millan’s Nat Geo Wild series, “Cesar 911,” Aaron Reyes, the agency’s deputy director, confirmed to CNN.
“In the video, someone has taken a pig and holds its rear leg in the air while another animal, a dog, runs to attack it,” Reyes said. “That, in and of itself, is a penal code animal cruelty violation in the state of California, but the office still needs to investigate the circumstances.”
In the February 26 show, Millan was working with Simon, an aggressive French bulldog-terrier mix with a history of attacking his owner’s pot-bellied pigs and other animals, a National Geographic Channels spokesman said. The episode showed Simon biting the ear of one of the pigs during a training session.
Complaints started after the episode aired. There have also been calls for the show to be canceled.
After the reports came to Reyes’ attention Thursday afternoon, the agency issued a 24-hour notice for Millan’s Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita, Reyes said, giving the people being investigated time to respond to the agency’s request. Otherwise, the agency may request a search or arrest warrant. Reyes said a staffer assured full cooperation.
The county is awaiting medical information about the pig’s treatment and a contact list of all those who witnessed the incident.
Millan is out of town, but his team is cooperating fully with animal care and control, Reyes said.
National Geographic Channels defended its star Thursday, saying the short clip shared online didn’t include “the full context of the encounter.”
“Cesar has created a safe and controlled environment at his Dog Psychology Center (DPC) in California in which to rehabilitate some of the most extreme — or ‘red zone’ — cases of dog aggression, such as Simon’s,” according to a statement. “It is important to clarify that Cesar took precautions, such as putting Simon on a long lead to assess his behavior, before 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. As the additional clip reveals, Cesar and his animal pack effectively helped Simon to overcome his aggressive behavior toward other animals; as a result, Simon did not have to be separated from his owner or euthanized.”
Millan, who rose to fame during nine seasons of his TV show “Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan,” is cooperating with authorities, according to the statement. “He is confident that the investigation will show there was no wrongdoing.”
After animal control’s investigation, Reyes said the agency will request a meeting with the district attorney’s office, which will decide whether or not to press charges.