UPDATE: An investigation by American Humane, which oversees animal safety in Hollywood, has determined that the leaked video "mischaracterized" production, and that “no animals were harmed in those scenes and numerous preventative safety measures were in place.” [The original story follows]
The film A Dog's Purpose has suddenly gone from being a children's novel adaptation that wasn't generating much in the way of media attention, to finding itself at the center of a very public controversy. The controversy stems from a leaked video from the film's set, showing a dog being forced against its will into rushing water and its handlers running to save it after it goes under the water. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has already called for a boycott of the movie when it hits theaters.
The irony of this kind of mistreatment happening on A Dog's Purpose is clear. Based on the novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron, the film follows the many lives and owners of a dog finding his purpose after re-incarnating. The book and film are meant to be uplifting, focusing on the relationships humans and dogs share. The story involves some abuse and neglect suffered by the dog in a few lives, and the humans who rescue and care for it.
"A few months ago, I was approached to lend my voice to the film A Dog's Purpose. As I sat in a dark screening room, I was beyond touched and moved by what I saw...a movie that captures the beauty and pain of loving a pet. I signed on for a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen. Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German Shepherd being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film. While I do not know all the details and cannot speak to the level of care and caution that went into this moment, as I was never on set for the making of this film, I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will. As a proud dog owner and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation."
A Dog's Purpose director Lasse Hallström has also spoken about the video, in a series of tweets that we've pieced together here:
I did not witness these actions. We were all committed to providing a loving 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 animals’ safety was of utmost priority [for] both myself and everyone on the set. I have been a lifelong animal lover and A DOG’S PURPOSE is my third film about dogs.
Hallstrom and Gad's statements match an earlier one from A Dog's Purpose producer Gavin Polone, who also says he was not on set when this incident happened. It would seem that the abuse of Hercules, the German Shepard in the video, all happened with very few witnesses and thus, was not reported at the time, if these parties are to be believed.
Keep checking in with Screen Rant for updates to this story.
- A Dog's Purpose (2017) release date: Jan 27, 2017