The outcry after a video surfaced showing the heartbreaking mistreatment of a German Shepard during the filming of A Dog’s Purpose reached such a pitch that Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment cancelled the premiere.
The video footage, first released by TMZ, shows a clearly distressed German Shepard named being physically forced into a pool of rapidly churning water. Eight outboard motors were used to simulate the appearance of white water rapids in the closed pool. After making multiple attempts to escape the water, Hercules is forced in and quickly sinks below the roiling water. The production staff does quickly call for filming to cut when his head disappears, and trainers swim to his aid.
Film’s Message Clouded by Concerns Over Dog’s Safety
When announcing the premiere’s cancellation, Universal and Amblin stated that they did not want “anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between humans and animals.” While that’s a wonderful sentiment for a family film to convey, it seems that the relationship between humans and animals on set was far from ideal.
Amblin acknowledged that they were “disheartened” by the footage, but claimed that an in-depth review that included conversations with safety personnel … trainers … and stunt coordinators … assured them that Hercules had not been harmed during the making of the film. They also claim that Hercules had several days to become acclimated to the set. “Amblin is confident that great care and concern was shown for the German Shepard Hercules, as well as for the other dogs featured throughout the production of the film,” the company said.
Producer “Horrified” by What He Saw
Producer Gavin Polone, however, refused to go along with the official story. Polone, a prominent vegan and animal rights activist, did not mince words, telling Deadline that the footage “horrified” him, and that if he had seen it, he would have “stopped it in a minute.” He explained that the footage of Hercules came from the movie’s second unit, and that he had worked almost entirely with the first unit and so was not on set at the time it was filmed.
Polone also expressed his frustration with the boycotting of A Dog’s Purpose. “It’s kind of crazy,” he said. “This is a movie about promoting the idea of animals as sentient and deserving of empathy and rights.” Sadly, that message has been overshadowed by concerns that the rights of the animals appearing in the film were violated.
How to Prevent On-Set Animal Cruelty
Polone suggested that the rather than boycotting the film, people channel their concern into efforts to reform the measures in place to keep animals on movie sets safe. The current system relies on a non-profit monitoring group called the American Humane Association. “There’s a person there all the time and clearly they are ineffective. That’s the issue and that’s what needs to be corrected.”
The American Humane Association has confirmed that a representative was present during the shot, and has now been suspended. They told TMZ that the safety representative who was on the set was immediately placed on administrative leave, and that they are bringing in an independent third party to conduct an investigation into the matter.