Cesar Millan says he understands why he’s being investigated by Los Angeles County Animal Control for animal cruelty — but he stands by his training methods.
The famed ‘Dog Whisperer’ spoke to PEOPLE by phone about the controversy Friday while on the road in Iowa, where he says he woke up to news of the investigation.
“This is what I love about America,” he tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “In America, animals have rights to a certain extent. And when somebody complains about it the law enforcement have to come and supervise. They do it to everybody and they’re doing the right thing.”
The dog trainer, who says he’s happy to cooperate with the investigation, is being criticized online after a clip from his show Cesar 911 showed an aggressive dog named Simon charging and biting an unsuspecting pig in a training exercise.
In the clip, Millan can be seen taking the dog — who had killed two pigs before — off-leash. Shortly after, Simon charges at the pig and later bites the farm animal’s ear, making it bleed (he reports that the pig, one of three he’s ever worked with on his show, is “fine” after the bite).
Millan tells PEOPLE that he thinks people are missing the real story here. “[The show] is about helping dogs in crisis,” he says. “To me that’s what the real story is here, some people would like to make it bigger than what it is, they’re taking this story out of proportion. If they watch the episode they can see clearly that the dog and the pig became best friends.”
After NBC Los Angeles reported on Thursday that Los Angeles County Animal Control officials were investigating Millan, 46, due to the episode involving the pig, Nat Geo WILD released another clip that showed Simon and the pig walking together, happily it seems.
Millan “100 percent” disagrees with detractors online who say he used a pig as bait to set off dog. “The pig and the dog became friends,” he says. “Nobody is looking at the whole story. They’re looking at a moment that happened, which I understand – it’s a sensitive subject.”
Millan confirmed to PEOPLE that animal control officers were at his ranch yesterday as a part of their investigation and that it’s not the first time he’s met with animal regulators, who come for routine visits.
“I’m not upset about it, I think they’re doing what there supposed to do,” he says. “At the end of the day they will see that this was taken out of proportion. This is not the first time that people have taken things out of proportion.”
Millan explains that it was important for the dog to be put in the situation with the pig — who lives at a nearby farm — so the dog trainer could help correct the pup’s behavior.
“My main goal is to educate human kind so we don’t end up euthanizing dogs with the mistakes we make. I’m going to do whatever it takes to save the life of a dog. I don’t use animals as bait,” he says.
The story of Simon, he says, is a “beautiful” one, as the pup is no longer aggressive toward pigs. The trainer is ultimately happy with the outcome even though the pig was hurt in the process.
“It happened really fast – and the dog only scratched the pig. I’m not saying I’m happy for it. I’m happy that I rehabilitated the dog,” he says. “I’m happy that I trained the humans and I’m happy that the pig and the dog ended up becoming friends.”
Millan isn’t happy, however, that this controversy is taking away from his work with difficult dogs. “I take the cases nobody wants,” he says, “it’s ridiculous that they’d take something and turn it into this, when my main goal is purely harmony and balance.”