The controversial video which apparently shows a German Shepherd being forced into turbulent water on the set of A Dog’s Purpose might not be all it seems.
American Humane, the group responsible for monitoring the animals used in the film, released a statement to Variety on Wednesday denying that any animals were put in harm’s way during production.
In the statement, American Humane CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert claims the group “immediately launched an independent, third-party investigation” into the video after it was first posted on TMZ. “The preliminary findings and eyewitness reports indicate that the footage was misleading and edited,” says Ganzert. “In fact, evidence supports the finding that the two scenes shown in the manipulated video were filmed at different times. Production stopped after the dog showed signs of stress and the dog was never forced to swim in the water against his will.”
Additionally, Ganzert claims the ongoing investigation confirmed that “a full spectrum of rigorous safety measures was in place to protect the dog throughout this particular scene.” This included one of American Humane’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives and five other individuals made up of scuba divers and animal handlers, according to Ganzert.
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“During the last take, handlers immediately assisted the dog out of the water and placed him in a warming tent, where he received a medical examination that found no signs of stress,” the statement continues. “Eyewitnesses report that afterwards, the dog wanted to go back into the water, but out of an abundance of caution, American Humane refused to allow the shooting of any additional scenes with the animal that day.”
Ganzert also pointed out that a producer on the film, Gavin Polone, called the footage “highly misleading” and stated that “the dog was NEVER forced into the water,” in a Jan. 23 op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter. Polone added that after the final scene, the dog “shook off and trotted around the pool, unharmed and unfazed.” The film’s star, Dennis Quaid, backed up the producer’s assessment, saying on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, “I know my experience when I was on the set that the dogs I worked with and the donkey were treated with the greatest respect and care and compassion.” On another appearance on Today, he said that “absolutely no dogs were harmed.”
The statement also addressed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) call to boycott the film, calling the group a “radical organization” that seeks “total animal liberation.” Ganzert points out that PETA opposes other instances in which animals and humans work together, such as “most seeing-eye-dog programs” and even pet ownership, which their website claims “causes immeasurable suffering” for animals. He also noted that a PETA spokesperson reportedly told The New York Times that the “organization believe[s] that live animals should be removed entirely from movies and television.”
Finally, American Humane promised to “continue our efforts to build a more humane Hollywood — something necessary to protect not only animal actors on sets, but also the future of the beloved films that remind us all to love and respect all the creatures of our world.”