Based on the novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose tells the story of a dog who continues on after a few reincarnations, looking for his purpose. Along the way he connects with several humans, forming loving bonds. The movie, like the book, was intended to be uplifting, a tribute to the relationship between people and dogs. But then a video was released, and the conversation about the film changed.
The video looked bad. Released first by TMZ, it showed a dog on the set of A Dog’s Purpose being forced into the water when it did not want to go. A voice could be heard in the background, laughing and saying “You just got to throw him in.” And after an obvious cut in the footage, it also showed animal handlers rushing to rescue it from the water. Immediately, there was huge backlash. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) called for a boycott. Director Lasse Hallström and actor Josh Gad – who voices the dog’s thoughts – both spoke out against the treatment of the animal. So did producer and animal rights activist Gavin Polone.
Based on an investigation by American Humane, it would appear that the video should not be taken at face value. EW reports that the official statement from the group – which oversees animal safety in Hollywood – state that “no animals were harmed in those scenes and numerous preventative safety measures were in place.” They also spoke about whoever released the video:
“The decisions by the individual or individuals who captured and deliberately edited the footage, and then waited longer than 15 months to release the manipulated video only days before the movie’s premiere, raise serious questions about their motives and ethics.”
The condition the video was in was also brought up:
“(The video) was deliberately edited for the purpose of misleading the public and stoking outrage. In fact, the two scenes shown in the edited video were filmed at different times.”
The video may have looked bad, but the animal, whose name is Hercules, was safe and not hurt. In fact, Hercules was recently found to be healthy during a veterinary visit. American Humane says “throughout its work on the set, the dog was treated with great care, attentiveness, and respect.”
The premiere of A Dog’s Purpose was canceled in light of the video’s release, but the opening weekend box office pulled a respectable 18.4 million dollars. The person or persons responsible and their reason for releasing the video are not known at this time.