Leaked video from the set of the upcoming movie release A Dog’s Purpose is calling into question the treatment of animals on the set and has the animal rights organization, PETA, calling for a boycott of the film.
The disturbing video released on TMZ shows a German Shepherd dog being forced into rushing water by a trainer or crew member for a “stunt”. The scared dog is seen trying to claw his way out of the rough water. Then, in a second clip, the dog is seen submerged under the water and handlers are heard screaming as they rush to save the dog as someone yells “cut it cut it cut it!”.
The disturbing footage is calling into question how the dogs, provided by the film animal supplier, Birds & Animals Unlimited, were treated throughout the film’s production.
This particular scene was shot outside of Winnipeg, Canada in November 2015 and is said to have been shot by the second unit of the production.
The video’s release has horrified one of the film’s producers who responded with a statement. According to Deadline, one of the film’s producer Gavin Polone, an animal rights activist, was horrified by what he saw. He has released a statement, reading in part:
“I’m horrified by this. The first thing I asked was, ‘Is the dog OK?’ He’s fine. But if I had seen that, I would have stopped it in a minute. People have to be held responsible for this. It was someone’s job to watch out for this kind of thing. Why didn’t they? This is something I’ve written about before, whether it be circus animals or animals on set. American Humane are supposed to be there supervising. That’s their job that someone is paid a lot of money to do. Why wasn’t this stopped? There needs to be a better system than this. That’s what I’ve called for in the past. I agree with PETA that they not only need to make sure animals are treated properly on set, but they also need to find out where the animals are kept outside of the set. To make sure they are treated properly at all times.”
According to Polone, he was not informed of the incident back in 2015 and there was not an immediate investigation. He said, “Who waited a year and three months to call attention to this? That’s wrong in itself.” Although Polone said he was on set for “about 70 percent” of the production, he was not present for this particular shoot.
Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures, the companies behind the movie, shared a statement with TMZ after watching the video:
“Fostering a safe environment and ensuring the ethical treatment of our animal actors was of the utmost importance to those involved in making this film and we will look into the circumstances surrounding this video.”
The production team stated that the German Shepherd seen in the video, Hercules, was in good health. “There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts,” they wrote in the statement. “On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot. Hercules is happy and healthy.”
A Dog’s Purpose” director Lasse Hallström has also released a statement regarding the video, saying:
“I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A dog’s purpose. I did not witness these actions, which are unacceptable and would never happen with my knowledge. We were all committed to providing a loving, respectful and safe environment for all the animals in the film. I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”
The American Humane Association, the nonprofit organization whose role it is to ensure the wellbeing of animals on film sets, has also released a statement:
“American Humane has reviewed the video and we are disturbed and concerned by the footage. When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped. We are placing the safety representative who was on the set on administrative leave immediately and are bringing in an independent third party to conduct an investigation into this matter.”
No one from Birds & Animals Unlimited has spoken publicly about the incident, but it appears all groups are conducting an investigation into the incident following the outcry surrounding the video. We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.
Update: February 4, 2017
An independent investigation has found that “The video was deliberately edited for the purpose of misleading the public and stoking outrage,” the American Humane released in a statement. “In fact, the two scenes shown in the edited video were filmed at different times.” Read more on what the report found here.