Due to the swirling controversy over the now viral video of a German shepherd being forced into the water and later slipping under the water as a handler scrambles to save it on the set of A Dog’s Purpose, Universal has cancelled both the press junket and the weekend’s scheduled premiere of the film. A Dog’s Purpose, based on the best-selling book of the same name, goes wide into theaters on Jan. 27th. The move to keep the press at bay comes as those involved with the film have spoken up in both protest and disgust at what happened during a second unit shoot in Winnipeg that occurred last fall.
Those who have said they were disturbed or outraged included producer Gavin Polone, Josh Gad (who provides the voice of the dog), trailer voice talent Anthony Mendez and the film’s own director Lasse Hallstrom. Whomever took the video only made it public this week. The handlers for the dog on the video (who we’re told also supplied the dog) was Birds & Animals Unlimited, an Acton, CA-based company that has been under heavy scrutiny for a long time from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA also asked that the film be boycotted because of how the dog was handled during the shoot.
Here is the statement from the film’s producer Amblin Entertainment and its distributor Universal Pictures:
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 animals and humans.
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.
We continue to support this film, are incredibly proud of it and will release it for audiences nationwide next Friday.