The footage of the German Shepherd was posted online just days before the movie’s release.
The scene of the dog, named Hercules, being pulled and pushed into a stream of turbulent water was allegedly shot in 2015 and shows the dog repeatedly clawing to stay on land.
The edited video then shows what appears to be the same German Shepherd sinking in the pool as one crew member yells “Cut it!” and others rush over to help the animal.
A voice off-camera also says in the video.“He wants to get away, just throw him in.”
“New footage shows a terrified dog who is forced into churning water on set,” PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange said in a statement. “At one point, a dog who is in danger of drowning has to be rescued.”
Lange called for a boycott of the film, which opens Jan. 27. PETA is calling on dog lovers “to boycott the film in order to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props,” Lange said.
Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures issued a statement saying that the dog in the video had been rehearsed for the water scenes but balked on the day of the shooting so the production team did not proceed. The companies said they were reviewing the footage.
“A Dog’s Purpose, produced by Amblin Entertainment and distributed by Universal Pictures, is a celebration of the special connection between humans and their dogs,” the companies said. “And in the spirit of this relationship, the Amblin production team followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals.”
“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. 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.”
“Hercules is happy and healthy,” the statement concluded.
Gavin Polone, a producer on the film, said that he was frustrated by the situation on several fronts — the fact that the video remained under wraps for more than a year and the inability of the American Humane monitoring group to properly supervise the set to prevent abuse, according to Variety.
He also noted that he had been on the set about 70 per cent of the time.
“Had I been on the set, this would have never happened,” he said. “This movie got made because of how I feel about animals. So this happened 15 months ago and should have been investigated immediately. It’s unconscionable that someone waited a year and three months to call attention to this.”
A member of the American Humane Association who was on set at the time of the incident — and thus responsible for the safety of its animal actors — has reportedly been suspended after the video came to light, according to TMZ.
A Dog’s Purpose is directed by Lasse Hallstrom and is based on W. Bruce Cameron’s 2010 novel about a dog who learns his purpose as he is reincarnated into several dogs over the course of several lifetimes.
Hallstrom released a statement Wednesday: “I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A Dog’s Purpose. I did not witness these actions, which are unacceptable and would never happen with my knowledge. We were all committed to providing a loving, respectful 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.”
Hallstrom also took to Twitter Wednesday to address the issue.
I did not witness these actions.
We were all committed to providing a loving and safe environment for all the animals in the film.
— lasse hallstrom (@HallstromLasse) January 19, 2017
Josh Gad, who is the voice of the dog, tweeted a response expressing his sorrow for how the dog appears to be treated.
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) January 19, 2017
PETA also said that the dogs used to film A Dog’s Purpose were provided by Birds & Animals Unlimited (BAU). The group complained to the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently about BAU, alleging that PETA’s investigation showed that the animals were denied veterinary care and were forced to sleep outdoors in the cold and to live in unsanitary conditions.