WARNING: video contains footage of an animal in distress and should be viewed with discretion
The release of A Dog’s Purpose is meant to be a love letter to dog lovers all across the globe. The film follows a dog named Bailey as he lives his life and is reincarnated as various different dogs over the years, including a German Shepherd police dog. The film would likely pass as a harmless piece of January fluff at the theaters if not for a leaked video showing the Shepherd in question allegedly being forced to perform a stunt in rushing water. This video, embedded above, has created outrage for many who feel it shows the mistreatment of the animal actors used during the production of the film.
According to Mashable, Amblin Partners has defended the production against the leaked footage and claimed that the dogs used in the production were always under “great care”:
“While we continue to review the circumstances shown in the edited footage, Amblin is confident that great care and concern was shown for the German Shepherd Hercules, as well as for all of the other dogs featured throughout the production of the film,” the company said. “There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts. On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot.”
Despite these claims, the American Humane Association has suspended the representative on set during the shoot according to TMZ and the film has been hit with calls for boycotts from individuals online and from PETA:
“We are placing the safety representative who was on the set on administrative leave immediately and are bringing in an independent third party to conduct an investigation into this matter.”
Following the release of the video by TMZ, A Dog’s Purpose director Lasse Hallstrom responded with shock on Twitter and claimed that he had not been involved with the particular shoot featured in the leaked clip:
The film also faced criticism from star Josh Gad who voices the dogs featured in the film. Gad released a statement about the footage on Facebook, pointing out that he was not on the set and was unaware that any ill-treatment of animals had taken place.
According to Deadline, Birds & Animals Unlimited has been on PETA’s radar for their practices for a while. The company supplied the dogs and handlers for the film, including the two seen in the video. The clip has drawn nearly universal criticism from those who saw it, despite the defense of Amblin and a lack of comment from Universal.