A critical care nurse from Florida is suing dog trainer, author, and star of tv’s “The Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan after a dog that was trained at, and released from, his Dog Psychology Center attacked and permanently disfigured her.
Alison Bitney was allegedly attacked by Gus the dog just 6 days after he was released from the Center. Claiming she suffered “disfiguring open wounds, deep muscle and tendon lacerations” and bone fractures from the September 23 attack, Bitney is seeking punitive damages from Millan and his Dog Psychology Center, claiming they negligently released a dangerous dog back to his owner.
Bitney claims the dog had an “extensive history of vicious and unprovoked attacks on individuals and animals,” and that in 2013 the dog was impounded in Texas after attacking a trainer. Before brutally attacking Texas trainer, Amber Rickles, the dog had been surrendered to a shelter by a woman claiming he was “nervous, growling and doesn’t like children.”
After the attack in Texas, the dog was ordered to be put down, but Millan’s Dog Psychology Center agreed, instead, to “rehabilitate” the dog, according to the 27-page lawsuit.
The dog’s life was spared under the strict condition that any future owner be informed of the dog’s history of biting. But, when the dog’s owner fell behind on payments to the boarding and training facility, he was released.
“The center prematurely released the known vicious and dangerous dog back into the public domain and entrusted it to someone with no training or experience in the handling of vicious and dangerous dogs,” the complaint states.
The dog has now been returned to the Center and is placed under quarantine.
Millan and the Dog Psychology Center, however, are asserting that the attack was beyond their control.
Jen Woodward, Vice President and Head of the Dog Psychology Center said, “Cesar Millan did not have any contact with Gus during his time at the Dog Psychology Center, nor was he asked to directly train Gus. Gus was removed from the DPC against the strong advice and objection of his trainer, before his rehabilitation was completed. Because the DPC is not the legal owner of Gus, we were unable to prevent the premature removal by his owner. After the dog bite incident, the owner returned Gus to the DPC and we followed dog bite protocol placing Gus in quarantine.”
This isn’t the first time Millan and his Dog Psychology Center have been at the center of a lawsuit involving their judgement or their care and treatment of animals. In 2006, Millan was sued after a dog suffocated while being forced to wear a choke collar and run on a treadmill at the Center.
While Millan and his training methods are widely accepted by the general public as effective, scientific research on canine behavior suggests the aversive methods he famously uses, including choke chains, physical force, and scare tactics, can actually make certain problem behaviors much worse.
Trainer Kevin Duggan explains, “Working with a dog that has issues with people or other dogs takes a lot of time. There are different ways that people approach how to do this, and scientifically speaking Counter Conditioning and Desensitization are the best known ways to make the most progress. These techniques focus on getting the dog to associate the thing it dislikes, with things it loves. The result of this is that in the future the dog tolerates or even likes when that thing is present.”
In the video below, Millan is using his “pack leader” training style in an attempt to rehabilitate a dog who dangerously guards his food, to the point that it frightens his family. Ultimately, this dog was surrendered by the family when Milan’s methods forced the dog from growling and snarling to actually biting. (this is not the dog involved in the lawsuit above)