UPDATE Saturday, 11:00 AM: PETA has issued a statement on the matter. “It takes a cold heart not to find this footage disturbing, so PETA asks whether A Dog’s Purpose was written from the heart or just to make a buck. Whistleblowers invariably fear for their jobs, but this footage was bravely made public after PETA exposed cruelty to animals at the film’s reported dog supplier”, the group said in a statement sent to Deadline by Moira Colley, Senior Media Officer. “If additional footage exists, it should be made public, but it won’t change the footage of a terrified dog forced into churning water any more than nanny cam footage of a bedtime story changes footage of a caregiver hitting a child.”
'A Dog's Purpose' Weekend Premiere And Press Junket Cancelled Amid Video Controversy
Original post, Friday: A Dog’s Purpose producer Gavin Polone said he’s had a change of heart after seeing the full video of a distressed German shepherd on set. He says the dog was not in danger and believes agendas are being carried out for different purposes — that whomever cut the video and made it appear the dog was in danger and “probably sold it for money” to fulfill’s PETA’s stated agenda of ensuring no animal is ever used on a TV or movie set again.
Also, producer Amblin Entertainment clarified that the incident that occurred was not the second unit as first thought but rather “a reduced main unit” crew shooting that day.
Asked by Deadline if that is PETA’s stated goal, the organization’s SVP Lisa Lange said, “Yes. With all we know about how they are kept in cages, the abuse that takes place during training and how they are treated on film sets, we believe that the animals should be CGI’d always.” (That, of course, would be cost prohibitive for most productions.) The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been targeting the animal supplier/handler Birds & Animals Unlimited for a long while.
One thing many of those involved with the film have questioned is why someone waited 15 months before releasing the video to TMZ, only two weeks before the release of the film in theaters nationwide January 27. “I care about the truth, and I care about animals,” said Polone, who has long been an animal activist. “And I want to use this to figure out how to benefit animals. I know the movie helps to benefit animals because it shows the deep relationships that forms between people and dogs.”
Added Polone, who said he viewed the entire thing yesterday: “I looked at the video of all of this. [The dog] gets under the froth of the water, but he is lifted up by the diver. He came up and he was fine. If your stated goal is to never use any animal on a movie set ever again, then they are trying to use the video that someone probably sold to TMZ to get a commitment for that.
“I’m not saying there were no mistakes made, but the whole thing is becoming untrue and unfair, and I feel like they and the person who cut the cellphone video together are using the media for their own agendas. It’s a cellphone video that was cut in a certain way. There are so many things that you don’t see … there are raised platforms under the water. There is a (scuba) diver under the water. You don’t see the safety people on the other side.
“The person who cut it probably wanted to sell it, and it doesn’t sell if it looks like the dog is OK. (The person) made it look like the dog could die … or did die.
“I’ve done more investigating and also had more conversations with PETA. Whoever was in control of the set should have told them to stop, but the dog was not in danger and the dog was and is OK.”
The video that ran Wednesday on TMZ has caused a public relations nightmare for Amblin and Universal Pictures, as it has gone viral.
The author of the book and co-screenwriter W. Bruce Cameron, who saw the full footage the day of the shoot, also said the edited video “mis-characterized” what happened on the set and went on Facebook to release the following statement:
First I want to thank everyone—and there have been literally thousands of you—who have written to express support. Your words and thoughts mean the world to us.
I found the video we’ve all seen to be shocking because when I was on set, the ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs.
If the people who shot and edited the video thought something was wrong, why did they wait fifteen months to do anything about it, instead of immediately going to the authorities?
I have since viewed footage taken of the day in question, when I wasn’t there, and it paints an entirely different picture.
The written commentary accompanying the edited video mischaracterizes what happened. The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water—I’ve seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool. When he was asked to perform the stunt from the other side of the pool, which was not how he had been doing it all day, he balked. The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay—the water wasn’t his issue, it was the location that was the issue, and the dog happily did the stunt when he was allowed to return to his original spot.
I also didn’t like it when Hercules’s head briefly went under water, but there was a scuba diver and a trainer in the pool to protect him. He loves the water, wasn’t in danger, and wasn’t upset.
On a movie where the mantra was the safety and comfort of the dogs, mistakes were made, and everything needs to be done to make sure those errors are not repeated. But the reason American Humane certifies that no animals were harmed during the making of the film is that no animals were harmed during the making of the film.
I celebrate animal rescue and am proud of the values that show up in A Dog’s Purpose.
We were told that when the full investigation by the studio and the production company is over, the unedited video likely will be released to the public.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.