Steven Seagal, martial artist and actor, is being sued over the death of a puppy.
The man suing him, Jesus Llovera of Phoenix, was the subject of a raid for suspected cock-fighting. Seagal is recording a reality show with Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona and was along with Arpaio for the raid. Reports vary on what happened: in one report, explosions were set off as a distraction so they could raid the premises followed by a tank driven by Seagal; in another report, the raid began with Seagal crashing a gate on the property with the tank; according to Seagal, he was keeping watch at one edge of the property. Wherever he was, Llovera is requesting financial compensation and written apologies from both Arpaio and Seagal for destruction of property and animals.
There are way too many questions left unanswered to guess what happened here.
Was the dog shot by fire used to kill the 100 roosters on the property, as one report says? Or was the dog a victim of a rolling tank? Llovera doesn’t accuse either Seagal or Arpaio of killing the puppy specifically, but does accuse them of destroying his home, property, and animals. Both have expressed their outrage at the accusation, but neither one has directly denied it: instead, Seagal says that the role of animal abuser is one he won’t accept, and Arpaio has asked for photographic proof.
As an Arizonan, I’m familiar with Arpaio and his media-grabbing stunts. It seems like this may be an instance where the sheriff is encouraging the media fray just for the attention – it’s something he revels in and he’s far from an animal abuser. He’s done a lot of good for abused animals in Maricopa County, from putting priority on catching and prosecuting animal abusers to converting an air-conditioned prison into an animal shelter. It seems highly unlikely that he would have intentionally been part of harming a puppy.
Then there’s the added fact that this was part of a reality TV show episode. I had only briefly heard about Seagal’s show prior to this incident, but I know a lot more about it now. Could he too be allowing the fuss to continue for the good of his ratings? It seems the answer is yes - a day after the lawsuit was announced, Seagal made a statement saying he was considering a defamation lawsuit against Llovera. A statement just for thinking about it? That's a deliberate attempt to stoke the media fire so that it's still burning when he makes another statement later about whether or not he's decided to pursue the defamation suit. Count me in among countless other dog lovers who won't fall for this ratings grab.
We don’t know all the facts about this incident. In just the first 24 hours, there were been many conflicting reports and things will only get murkier as the case progresses. With so little fact to go on, we really can’t judge who’s to blame. It’s a tragic event, the loss of a young family pet in such a dramatic way. Worst case scenario, the puppy’s death was caused by callus exuberance and utter disregard for life. But best case scenario, it was an accident that is being played up for the sake of media attention and ratings.
That’s horrifying in a whole other way.
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Photo credit: celebwelove.com