When it comes to guard-dog training, Bob Taylor says, "I'm the best."
But Taylor's bravado was shaken Monday after he pleaded no contest in Orange County Municipal Court, Westminster, to training protection dogs without a license.
Taylor, a well-known trainer who operates Superior Dog Training in county territory near Stanton, said he is the victim of a legal technicality and a nosy neighbor.
The neighbor, Robert Keller, started things off when he complained to authorities that Taylor had mistreated dogs. Taylor said Keller imagined it.
Kennel Licenses Only
According to authorities, Taylor has every permit he needs to operate his kennel business but does not have a $250 protection-dog training license issued by the state Department of Consumer Affairs.
But Taylor insisted that he performs no protection-dog training. "I've used a much gentler alternative, and that's Schutzhund training," he said.
He described Schutzhund training as a sophisticated German technique he has been using for years to train German shepherds, Doberman pinschers and other breeds.
According to dog experts, Schutzhund does not involve "attack training," during which trainers in padded suits modify a dog's behavior by irritating the dog with a stick, prompting it to attack.
But Deputy Dist. Atty. David R. LaBahn said Taylor plainly was training protection dogs.
"I would put it to you, a jury or anyone else," LaBahn said, "if it looks like protection-dog training--that is, wearing the padded outfit and hitting with sticks--then it's consistent with protection-dog training."
Taylor said his problems began several years ago, when Keller peered over Taylor's fence. Keller later said he saw Taylor mistreat a dog. He said that on other occasions he saw Taylor or Taylor's handler wearing padded dog-trainer's garb and hitting a dog with a stick to make it attack.
Keller complained to the state Department of Consumer Affairs, which led to the criminal case.
Taylor insisted that the case is a waste of tax money--"a lot of nothing"--but Monday he pleaded no contest to operating a business without a license, a misdemeanor. Municipal Judge Dan C. Dutcher fined Taylor $175 and placed him on two years' probation.
As part of a plea bargain, the district attorney dropped charges of cruelty to animals and false advertising.
Taylor said Monday that Keller is motivated by jealousy over Taylor's successful business.
Keller denied it. "He's just calling it by a different name," Keller said, "but it's still protection-dog training."
Taylor accused the state Department of Consumer Affairs of splitting hairs about its definition of protection-dog training.
The department denied it. "We've been at this with Mr. Taylor since 1983," said Ernest Luzania, deputy chief of the Bureau of Collection and Investigative Service in Sacramento. "He has always claimed that he wasn't doing training as the professions code defines protection-dog training. We are of the opinion that he was, and that's why we filed charges.
"We're not splitting hairs, he is," Luzania said.
Taylor said he was once told by Luzania's agency that he did not need a protection-dog license. He later applied for a license and was rejected because the agency had begun its investigation of Keller's claims, he said.
Taylor said he will go before an administrative hearing judge today to appeal the agency's license denial.