“Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan is under investigation for possible animal cruelty stemming from an incident filmed for his “Cesar 911” TV show, authorities said.
Sheriff’s deputies and investigators with LA County Animal Control visited his Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita Thursday evening, but Millan was not there at the time. A family member told NBC4 he is out of town on a business trip.
The investigation comes after animal welfare officials were flooded with tips following the airing of an episode when Millan used a live pig as part of a training session with a dog that had previously attacked two pet pigs.
In the segment, the dog bit the pig’s ear before it could be stopped, causing it to bleed. Online reports and petitions have said it appeared part of the ear had been bitten off, but representatives for Millan's show insisted Thursday night that was not the case.
According to Animal Control, a 24-hour notice was issued, requiring Millan to make contact with investigators. They would like to inquire about the whereabouts and well-being of the pig.
The incident has caused a furor, with some animal activists taking to social media decrying the incident and petitions circulating calling for the end to his TV show.
Laura Nativo is a professional dog trainer who helped organize a petition calling for the cancellation of Millan's TV show. Close to 8,000 people have signed it so far.
"It was really difficult to watch," she said. "It's not the way to rehabilitate an animal that is fearful and and aggressive to pigs."
Millan is a self-taught dog behaviorist who has several New York Times best-selling books on the subject to his name in addition to his television shows.
A representative from Nat Geo WILD, which airs Millan's show, issued this statement:
"Cesar Millan has dedicated his life to helping dogs and to showing how even the most difficult “problem dog” can be rescued and rehabilitated. In a recent episode of the Nat Geo WILD series "Cesar 911," Cesar works with an aggressive French bulldog/terrier mix named Simon, who has a history of attacking other animals, including his owner’s pet potbellied pigs. 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.
"We have included an additional clip from the same episode to provide missing context. 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. 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."
The Nat Geo WILD footage that the company provided has been included in this article.