Animal cruelty alleged in filming of A Dog’s Purpose; activists calling for a boycott

UPDATE: Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment have cancelled this weekend’s movie premiere. The companies issued this release late Thursday:

“Because Amblin’s review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog’s Purpose to cancel this weekend’s premiere and press junket. Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between humans and animals.

Since the emergence of the footage, Amblin has engaged with many associated with the production of the film, including safety personnel, trainers and stunt coordinators as part of their in-depth review. While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress, everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking.”

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A Dog’s Purpose was poised to be touching portrayal of the human relationship with man’s best friend.

But now the film is coming under fire by animal rights activists as a video has surfaced showing one of the canine actors seemingly being forced to perform.

The video, posted by TMZ on Wednesdsay with the headline “Terrified German Shepherd forced into turbulent water,” was apparently shot on a Winnipeg, Manitoba set in 2015.

A trainer seems to be forcing a German Shepherd into a pool of turbulent water, despite the dog fighting to stay out of the water. When the dog appears to go under, someone yells “cut it” and people rush to the animal’s aid.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called for a boycott of the film, saying “at one point during the horrifying footage, a dog who is seemingly in danger of drowning has to be rescued.”

Animal Justice in Canada quickly called for an investigation, calling the behind-the-scenes action “blatant animal cruelty.”

“Animal cruelty at a film shoot in Winnipeg!” the group wrote. “Makers of the movie A Dog’s Purpose are caught on camera throwing this terrified German shepherd into rushing water. We’re asking authorities to investigate the filmmakers for illegal animal abuse.”

The movie is based on the bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, and is directed by Lasse Hallström. According to Universal pictures it tells the story of “one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.”

 

Production company Amblin Entertainment issued a statement late Wednesday saying production “followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals.” The company also said the dog, named Hercules is “happy and healthy.”

 

“While we continue to review the circumstances shown in the edited footage, Amblin is confident that great care and concern was shown for the German Shepherd Hercules, as well as for all of the other dogs featured throughout the production of the film. There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts. 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.”

Those involved in the film also weighed in on social media saying they were disturbed by the images.

 

Several animal welfare bodies are now investigating.

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