Update: Following an investigation by a third-party, American Humane have found no evidence supporting claims of animal abuse and mistreatment, and claim the original video was edited with the intention of being disingenuous. Original report follows.
Animals used within the film industry have had a chequered past. Often, their inclusion is done under the trusty supervision of handlers and welfare supervisors to ensure that they’re not harmed during filming. Other times you get some truly horrific stories about their treatment on set. The latest one is a new video showing some abhorrent treatment of a German Shepard on set of the (would be) animal lover’s film, A Dog’s Purpose.
The footage, which was filmed all the way back in November 2015 but published by TMZ last night, shows an attempt to shoot a scene featuring one of the many dogs featured in the film battling some simulated, rough waters. The German Shepard is clearly not at ease with the situation, clawing at the sides of the platform while his handler attempts to get him in the water. Hercules, the name of the German Shepard, is eventually thrown into the water by the handler, and moments later falls beneath the surface as the footage cuts.
DO !! NOT !! SUPPORT !! A !! DOGS !! PURPOSE !!
THEY FORCED THIS POOR GERMAN SHEPARD INTO TURBULENT WATER. DON’T WATCH THIS FILM. pic.twitter.com/pNFvDWMLsy
— lauren (@roseoddity) 19 January 2017
It’s clear that’s not part of the scene, as other handlers scramble to the scene after the director shouts “cut it” in the clip. The clip immediately went viral, with animal rights group PETA jumping on the case. Shortly afterwards the American Humane Association member on duty during the shoot was suspended, with PETA releasing an official statement on the matter.
The producers of the film underneath Amblin Entertainment were quick to react, releasing a statement of their own that stated Hercules was not only unharmed from the incident, but completed filming of the scene at a later date. In other words, they shot it again.
“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.”
Amblin made it clear that Hercules was not thrown in the water, and that the shoot was not undertaken with him being uneasy. Which is a little difficult to swallow, given that the footage above shows none of that care being taken in the first place. So why assume subsequent shoots were any different?
For a film that’s all about the “celebration of the special connection between humans and their dogs,” this is the sort of treatment of man’ best friend that not likely to sit well with any of the intended target audience. And it’s completely unnecessary too – given the progression of CGI and it’s ability to yank actors and animals alike out of would be dangerous shooting situations. There’s no need for an animal to be put at risk like this, and especially so for the purpose of entertainment.
A Dog’s Purpose is out sometime in the near future. I won’t be watching it.