Chance to send a much-needed message to “rehabbers” of dangerous dogs was lost
Celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan will not be criminally charged for losing control of a French bulldog named Simon, who then mauled a pig, while videotaping the February 26, 2016 edition of the National Geographic channel’s Cesar 911 reality TV series.
Announced Millan on April 11, 2016, “We have been informed by Los Angeles County Animal Control that their investigation into the farm pig incident is over and they have found that we did nothing wrong and no charges will be brought against me or my team.
“Will continue to rescue & rehab”
“My team and I are 100% dedicated to the proper care of all animals,” Millan insisted, “and our animal handling procedures are safe and humane. We will continue to rescue and rehabilitate even the most difficult problem dogs. Our work has saved the lives of thousands of animals that otherwise would have been euthanized.”
Said Aaron Reyes, deputy director for the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control, “After a comprehensive investigation by our officers, we presented a very thorough and complete report to the District Attorney’s office. They were unable to find anything to charge Mr. Millan with. It’s a fair decision,” Reyes opined.
“You can tell that [the attack on the pig] was not intentional and [Millan’s] reactions were swift and effective,” Reyes added. “The injuries to the pig looked worse than they really were, and they got immediate veterinary care.”
“Merely a nip”?
Claimed Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Jacobs, in a written case evaluation statement, “There is no evidence that the pig was used as bait, and all parties who witnessed the incident felt it was an accident. Although in the video the pig is seen bleeding, the dog’s act was merely a nip and did not tear or bite the skin off.”
Viewers of the close-up images drawn from the video of the incident may draw their own conclusions about that, as many already have.
Concerning whether Millan “did nothing wrong,” from the perspective that injuring animals is inherently wrong, doing nothing wrong would have required that the pig not have been hurt.
Lost control of the dog
Millan lost control of the dog he was handling. That was wrong, even if not criminally wrong. After regaining control of the dog, Millan released the dog again, in proximity to the pig. That was also wrong, if one considers the pig’s well-being.
And Millan’s whole approach to training the dog, who had already killed two pigs, was also wrong, for reasons presented at length by Beth Clifton of ANIMALS 24-7 on March 10, 2016.
Beth was scarcely alone in her views.
Mikkel & Marty Becker
Consider also the perspectives of bloggers Mikkel and Marty Becker, DVM, daughter and father, respectively “a dog training professional who trains in combination with numerous veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists,” and “a veterinarian with nearly 37 years in practice,” according to the preface to their March 24, 2016 essay “What you’re really seeing when you watch Cesar Millan.”
Wrote Mikkel Becker, “Imagine being told that because you’re terrified of bugs, you’ll be forced to live with them crawling on you…That’s what it would be like for a dog with this one’s history to be told he has to be near numerous pigs, but can’t flee or show aggression. It becomes a situation that’s inhumane and abusive for the dog, and puts the pigs at serious risk of injury, as happened in the episode.
“Putting both the pig and dog in danger”
“When I saw the dog being tied to the pig at the end of the show, my heart dropped,” Mikkel Becker continued. “This is putting both the pig and dog in danger in a situation that’s extremely frightening to both. Dogs and pigs both are intelligent creatures with lasting memories who are likely to be upset when their last encounter was an attack––and now they’re tied together without ability to move away.
“To some,” Mikkel Becker allowed, “it may appear the dog who has been subjected to this process is ‘better’ because he’s stopped the problem behavior (biting, chasing, etc.). Internally, however, the dog is anything but calm. He is still likely to engage in the problem behavior, which is also likely going to escalate because the dog’s emotional state has been intensified rather than resolved or replaced with a preferable behavior.”
Assume, as the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office apparently did, that Millan could only be convicted of having used bad judgment, resulting in accidental injuries to a pig, whose species customarily suffers far worse during a brief life culminating in slaughter.
Is bad judgment any excuse?
The law tends to leave making reparations for damages in accidents resulting from bad judgment to civil process.
Since the injured pig belonged to Millan himself, no one will be suing Millan for damages,
But the law also often prosecutes bad judgment when the bad judgment results in foreseeable harm.
If releasing a dog who has already killed two pigs in proximity to yet another pig does not involve foreseeable harm, what does?
“Famous Persons Act”
Those of us who have long reported about matters within the purview of law enforcement at times make cynical reference to the unwritten “Famous Persons Act.”
The “Famous Persons Act,” though no one can prove it exists, is allegedly in effect whenever a prominent public figure appears to get away with something for which anyone else might be prosecuted, convicted, and punished.
Understood is that prosecuting any popular public figure, who has the resources to mount a vigorous defense, tends to be inherently problematic, with a high risk of the case ending in acquittal––especially if a jury accepts that the act in question, even if harmful and foreseeable, was accidental.
Protecting the public interest
Prosecutors in evaluating any case have to take into consideration whether putting it before the court will serve the interests of the taxpaying public, in all respects.
Millan is by all accounts a law-abiding citizen who contributes significantly to charity.
Would prosecuting Millan for an alleged offense carrying a relatively trivial penalty have actually helped to protect the public, in any way?
Even if Millan had been charged and convicted, would the legal penalty have been more meaningful than the embarrassment the dog attack on the pig has already cost him?
ANIMALS 24-7 takes into account Millan’s pledge to “continue to rescue and rehabilitate even the most difficult problem dogs.”
Noble though this may sound in abstract, reality is that rescuing and allegedly rehabilitating “problem dogs” is now contributing to tens of thousands of fatal and disfiguring dog attacks on other animals each and every year, plus hundreds of disfiguring and dozens of fatal dog attacks on humans, that were not occurring at even a fraction of the present frequency in the pre-Millan, pre-Michael Vick, pre-Maddie’s Fund, pre-Best Friends Animal Society era, before advocating for dangerous dogs came into vogue.
Authentic humane concern and respect for animal rights includes concern and respect for the victims of dog attacks, among them pigs who have the misfortune to be penned with dogs for the purpose of someone making a video.
Could have sent a message
While the Los Angeles County district attorney concluded that Millan could not have been prosecuted successfully, a successful prosecution in the Millan case might have sent a much-needed message to advocates for dangerous dogs that putting other animals and perhaps humans at risk, in the name of “training” and “rehabilitation,” is not acceptable and not to be tolerated, merely because the perpetrators have good intentions.
“Rehabilitating” one animal at the expense of another is not a good deed.
Sooner or later a pit bull or some other dog with a history and reputation for doing harm, who has purportedly been rehabilitated by a celebrity dog trainer, will go on to grievously disfigure or kill a person. Such has already happened in several cases involving big-name humane societies, but not as yet any well-known trainers.
Famous persons vs. nobodies
When such next occurs, ANIMALS 24-7 hopes the local prosecutor has the intestinal fortitude to bring charges of the same weight that have already been brought successfully against a multitude of nobodies whose self-trained dogs have disfigured or killed people. And we hope that prosecutor has the ability to win a conviction.
Many of the multitude of nobodies whose self-trained dogs have disfigured or killed people are doing hard prison time for the “accidents” that judges and juries have agreed should have been foreseen.
But none of those nobodies have ever had the opportunity to teach and preach their mistaken views about how dogs should be trained to thousands of other people, leading to many of those people emulating the same sorts of foreseeably dangerous behavior.