Dog attack on pig is assigned to Major Case Unit Investigator
LOS ANGELES, California––Will celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan be prosecuted for allowing a French bulldog in his care to maul a pig while making the February 26, 2016 episode of National Geographic Wild’s Cesar 911 “reality” television show?
“We have assigned it to a Major Case Unit Investigator within our Department and it is moving along,” County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care & Control Aaron Reyes told ANIMALS 24-7 on March 14, 2016. “The goal is to have it ready to hand-deliver downtown, where we will arrange for a sit-down with the District Attorney’s Office to discuss the case.”
Reported Joseph Serna of the Los Angeles Times, “Investigators are asking for the names of everyone who appeared on the episode, and also want to see the pig. Then they will decide whether the canine-on-swine-related violence rises to the level of a crime.”
Millan and National Geographic Wild meanwhile appeared to be focused on doing public image damage control.
Explained a National Geographic Wild prepared statement, “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.”
Walking with the pig
“Later in the episode,” summarized Serna, “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.”
The “walking” footage was taken a day after the pig was injured.
Said Millan on camera, “The same pig that Simon attacked is now going to take him for a walk. This way I am making Simon a follower, not an aggressor.”
“What happened, happened”
“There’s no question that what happened, happened,” Reyes told Serna. “A dog under Millan’s control escaped and attacked another live animal. The dog 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.”
But the dog did not just “escape”
But Simon the dog did not just “escape.” After initially escaping and cornering the pig behind a large potted plant, Simon was caught and held by Millan, while another member of the Cesar 911 crew caught the pig. Millan then held Simon until after the pig was released, then let Simon go a split-second later, apparently less than five feet from the pig, immediately after the pig began to run away.
Then, as documented by the February 26, 2016 video, Simon tore off a considerable portion of the pig’s left ear.
Did not “heal quickly”
Far from healing quickly, the injured ear was still inflamed in the video made a day later, and the missing flesh was obvious.
Millan took many visible precautions in videotaping the “walking” segments, beyond just training routines, to ensure that Simon did not again attack the pig.
The pig was visibly anxious, trying to remain close to two other pigs who were also in the pen. All three pigs wore harnesses.
A knee & a foot
In proximity to the pigs while Millan attached a tether to the victim pig’s harness, Simon kept his back turned to the pigs at all times––and, to ensure that he did, Millan kept Simon short-leashed, using both a knee and his foot to preclude Simon from turning or lunging.
While Millan described the climactic sequence as the pig walking Simon, in truth it was the other way around: the tethered pig continuously moved away from Simon, who held the lead in his mouth.
Simon could have escaped at any time by dropping the lead, but the pig could not escape, even by trying to put the other pigs between himself and the dog.
Fans defended Cesar
Millan fans vehemently defended him in e-mails and comments posted to ANIMALS 24-7, in response to social media editor Beth Clifton’s March 9, 2016 column “What on earth was Cesar thinking?”––mostly in terms dismissing the pig’s trauma as trivial and incidental to training the dog.
For example, wrote “Clarisse,” email@example.com, “You neglect to realize that during the rehabilitation of an animal, exposure to the situations that trigger a behavior are necessary in order to correct the situation.”
So, in her view, it is acceptable to terrorize and injure a pig in order to “rehabilitate” a dog who has already killed two pigs?
This outlook would likely be no more acceptable to most pig farmers than to animal rights advocates who live by PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk’s 1986 maxim that, “In their capacity to suffer, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They’re all animals.”
Pigs don’t normally do this
Purporting to speak from the perspective of pig farmers, however, “Bobbi Whiskers,” firstname.lastname@example.org, alleged that “Pigs do that kind of thing to each other, if they are in groups, or ‘free range.’”
In this regard, “Bobbi Whiskers” actually described the behavior of pigs who are closely confined in abnormal density.
Continued “Bobbi Whiskers,” “Cattle are ear-tagged, and ears are notched right after they are born. Same with sheep and goats. Deer get cut up by wire, metal, thorns, just about anything those long ears get caught in. This is just no big deal with the pig. The damn pig wasn’t hurt. It is fine. It has no idea it was treated ‘cruelly.’ Didn’t even notice when it got bit. Pigs are not very sensitive to injuries like that, plain and simple. They go through much worse to be made into bacon, that’s for sure.”
150 years of campaigns for pigs
Indeed, pigs do go through much worse to be made into bacon––and working to reform or abolish such abuses of pigs has been among the focal concerns of the U.S. humane movement since even before the passage of the federal Twenty-Eight Hour Law of 1873, which limited the time that any hooved animals could be kept aboard any kind of vehicle without being let off to receive water, food, rest, and exercise.
Agribusiness lobbies around the clock for exemptions to such practices as ear-notching, and castrating boars and clipping their canine teeth without anaesthetic, and has since the dawn of animal advocacy, precisely because these farm routines would constitute prosecutable cruelty not only under the humane laws of today, but under the laws of the mid-19th century, flimsy as they were by modern standards.
Yes, the pig noticed
That “The damn pig…didn’t even notice when it got bit” was belied by the easily audible squealing captured by Millan’s own video cameras.
Said “Cathy,” email@example.com, “I am from the Netherlands. Reacting about what happened with that pig is really American style. The pig will survive, the dog knows how to behave, and that’s it, no more, no less.”
Dutch laws are stricter
But in truth the laws governing how pigs may be treated are much stricter in the Netherlands, and throughout the European Union, than they are anywhere in the U.S.
Even at that, though, the damage to the pig in the Millan case much resembles the injuries done to pigs in so-called hog-dog rodeo, now illegal in almost every state.
“Hog-dog” prosecuted since 2004
Hog-dog rodeo has been prosecuted, and laws against it have been strengthened, since May 1994, when then-Florida attorney general Bob Butterworth held it to be a form of illegal animal fighting.
Hunting dogs with pigs remains legal almost everywhere. But setting dogs on confined pigs, even in the name of “training,” is permitted only as “hog baying,” under rules prohibiting actual contact between the dogs and the pigs they corner in chase pens.
One man holds the pig
Available videos of hog-dog rodeo show more-or-less the same sequence of events shown in the Millan video: one man holds the pig while other men hold one or more dogs. When the pig is released, the dog or dogs are released.
Often the alleged videographers made, or hoped to make, a video for sale. Usually the video they made was used to convict them.
Alleged hog-dog fighting incidents bearing some resemblance to the Millan incident have been prosecuted since 2006 in Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas.
French bulldogs are used
Hog-dog fighters typically use pit bulls larger than Simon, the French bulldog featured in the Millan video, but two French bulldogs resembling Simon were among 65 pit bulls and pit variants impounded from a hog-dog operation in Cottonwood, Alabama in January 2015.
While Millan purported to teach Simon not to attack pigs, the alleged perpetrators in most of the prosecuted cases have purported to be teaching dogs how to hunt pigs. Either way, the outcome for the pigs was similar.
“A staged fight”
“Traditional” hog-dog rodeo, explains J.P. Goodwin, animal fighting campaign manager for the Humane Society of the U.S., is “a staged fight in which dogs chase trapped hogs in front of spectators and players rank the dogs by how quickly they bite into the hog’s face and pull the screaming animal down. The dogs in turn can be gored by the hog’s tusks.”
Wrote Cronkite News Service reporter Michelle Price for the Tucson Citizen in 2009, describing scenes documented in 2004 by Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department investigators, “Trained to attack, the dog corners a wild hog, then lunges and sinks his teeth into the hog’s ear. The hog squeals wildly, drowning out the cheers of people who paid to see this. After the dog holds on for the required three seconds, the owner pries it off and this round of hog-dog fighting is over. For the hog, the fight won’t end until too much of her flesh has been torn off for her to play bait.”
“Bay” dogs & “catch” dogs
Elaborated Jonathan Blaque for LiveJournal in 2005, “Hog-dog fighting comes from hog hunting. When hunting feral hogs, dogs fall generally into two camps: ‘bay’ dogs who only corner the hog, and ‘catch’ dogs who actually clamp onto the feral hogs with their jaws…Traditional hog hunting first spurred ‘trials’ in which dogs competed against each other to catch and corner hogs. Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials in Winnfield, Louisiana,” Blaque recalled, “has been an annual event since 1995, and is now billed as the ‘Super Bowl of Hog Dog Baying.’ There are even youth scholarships for the event.”
“The event was named for Earl K. Long––Uncle Earl––who was born in Winnfield in 1895,” elaborated Associated Press reporter Mary Foster in 2007. “Long, brother of Governor Huey P. Long, was one of Louisiana’s most colorful politicians. He was governor three times between 1939 and 1960 and was an avid hog hunter.”