NEW YORK• Popular American television dog trainer Cesar Millan, known as the Dog Whisperer, said last Friday he understood why he was being investigated for animal cruelty, but stood by his training methods as thousands signed a petition demanding his show be cancelled.
He told People magazine that he is happy to cooperate with the investigation into a Feb 26 episode of the Nat Geo Wild series Cesar 911, in which he uses a pig to train a French bulldog terrier mix called Simon, which had killed two pigs in the past.
On the show, Simon is seen chasing the pig and nipping its ear, causing it to bleed.
“In America, animals have rights to a certain extent.And when somebody complains about it, the law enforcement has to come and supervise. They do it to everybody and they’re doing the right thing,” Millan told People.
A Change.org petition signed by more than 10,000 people last Friday called Millan’s methods inhumane, saying he “used the pig as a bait for the dog all for ‘entertainment’ purposes”.
It asked Nat Geo Wild to cancel his show.
Millan, 46, who found fame through his show Dog Whisperer that has been broadcast worldwide and who has sold millions of books about his techniques, said he disagreed that he used the pig as bait to provoke the dog.
He said Simon and the pig “became best friends” and the dog was no longer aggressive towards pigs.
In a follow-up segment, which was aired later in the episode, Simon is seen co-existing peacefully with a group of pigs, a chicken and other animals.
A representative for Millan confirmed his comments to People. The Department of Animal Care and Control in Los Angeles County did not return requests for comment.
The American Humane Society said it had received complaints about the episode and called the incident “abuse” in a statement.
Nat Geo Wild, a unit of 21st Century Fox, last Friday rallied around Millan and said a clip from the episode that was shared online “caused some concern for viewers who did not see or understand the full context of the encounter”.
“The pig that was nipped... was tended to immediately afterward, healed quickly and showed no lasting signs of distress... As a result (of Millan’s work), Simon did not have to be separated from its owner or euthanised,” it said.