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'Dog whisperer' Cesar Millan defends himself amid animal cruelty investigation

Famed “dog whisperer” Cesar Millan is defending himself amid an investigation by Los Angeles County animal control officials involving a pot-bellied pig that was attacked by a French bulldog mix during a TV episode.

Investigators are asking for the names of everyone who appeared on the Feb. 26 episode of National Geographic Wild’s “Cesar 911” show and also want to see the pig, officials said.

Then they will decide whether the canine-on-swine-related violence rises to the level of a crime, officials said Friday.

Millan, however, said no crime occurred and that the entire episode is much ado about nothing.

"I do have a large group of fans and a small group of people who don't agree with me. They are taking this the wrong way and blowing it way out of proportion," he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

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In a statement, National Geographic Wild does not dispute that the French bulldog mix, named Simon, attacked the pig during training. The dog reportedly bit the pig in the ear, drawing blood. Later in the episode, the same pig appears to be leashed to the dog on a walk around a pen in an attempt to train it to co-exist with pigs – which was a big problem for Simon.

Animal control officials said context is important in investigating allegations of animal cruelty, which were lodged Thursday by an animal rights activist who saw the episode.

“We know what we saw, and if you saw the entire video, then you know what we know,” said Aaron Reyes, deputy director for the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control. “There’s no question that what happened, happened. A dog under Cesar Millan’s control escaped and attacked another live animal, in this case a pot-bellied pig.”

“The dog that was in question, that Cesar was attempting to train, broke away from him in the video, and immediately charged the pig. Now, what we’re hearing from the [complaining party] is that the biggest concern is someone had that pig, a male adult was holding one of those pigs, those rear legs, and holding the pig up, which made the pig squeal, which made the dog [go] into a frenzy. And it immediately charged at that pig. And the dog attacked,” Reyes said.

Before filing the complaint, the activist called TMZ and let it know that he was going after Millan, Reyes said. The complaint against the celebrity dog trainer was filed soon after.

“We don’t investigate people; we investigate allegations,” Reyes said.

Animal control officers and sheriff’s deputies visited Millan’s home Thursday night and spoke with his son, who is a minor, Reyes said. The son notified Millan, who was out of state. Millan is cooperating with the probe, and investigators are waiting to see the pig, as well as to talk to other people.

There’s no history of animal cruelty complaints tied to the property where the February incident took place – a 45-acre dog-training ranch in Santa Clarita, Reyes said.

In a statement released to the media, National Geographic Wild explained what it said happened in the episode:

“Millan was working with Simon, a French bulldog/terrier mix, who frequently attacked other animals, including his owner’s pet pot-bellied 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. The pig that was nipped by Simon was tended to immediately afterward, healed quickly and showed no lasting signs of distress.”

The dog ultimately did not have to be euthanized or separated from his owner, according to the statement.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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