'A Dog's Purpose' Producer Speaks Out About 'Inexcusable' Video — but Insists Footage Is 'Highly Misleading'

A producer attached to A Dog's Purpose speaks out in a lengthy op-ed about the 'inexcusable' but misleading controversial footage

A producer on A Dog’s Purpose is speaking out about controversial footage that surfaced showing a German Shepherd seemingly being forced into churning water to film a scene for the movie.

In a lengthy essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Gavin Polone, a self-professed animal lover, repeatedly states that the video is “inexcusable” while asserting that full footage from the day in question proves that the dog was never actually forced to participate in the stunt when he felt uncomfortable.

“Like you, I’m sure, I was appalled when I saw the video, shot on the set of A Dog’s Purpose in Winnipeg in October 2015, of a dog trainer trying to coerce a frightened German [Shepherd] into a pool,” Polone begins. “Unlike you, the terrible feeling engendered by that video was heightened for me because I am the producer of that film and because much of my identity is fused with the belief that I am a lover and defender of animals and their welfare.”

Polone, a vegan, goes on to explain that he has helped with animal welfare causes in the past and even revealed that his will stipulates that all his assets be donated to charities supporting animal causes.

“Love of animals defines my existence, and that love is what drove me to struggle for years to get Bruce Cameron’s brilliant and widely cherished novel about the bond between a person and a dog made into a movie,” Polone writes of the movie’s source material. “So now, the idea that I’m connected to an accusation of the abuse of a dog is, to understate it, painful.”


Polone then addresses two incidents depicted in the controversial video: the German Shepherd being held by a trainer near the edge of a turbulent pool, and then later going under water for a few seconds before the scene is cut. “These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened,” Polone states. “The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under.”

The American Humane Association — which Polone claims is “not offering enough protection to stop those events and displaying no real protest after they occurred” — has suspended the safety representative on the film, pending an investigation.

However, Polone also insists that there is more to the story than the video shows. He claims that the dog was happily doing the stunt during rehearsal but with one difference — it was on the left side of the pool instead of the right. After filmmakers decided to flip that around, the dog seemed to become uncomfortable and spooked, he says.

“When the dog didn’t want to do the scene from the new position, they cut, though not soon enough, and then went back to the original position. What is clear from viewing all the footage was that the dog was NEVER forced into the water,” Polone says.

He claims that the video’s “edited version gives the impression that the dog was thrown in and eventually drowned, since the two parts seem to be connected. You never see him pulled out and OK. This is highly misleading.” He adds that filmmakers later released footage, dated Jan. 19, showing the dog, Hercules, happy and healthy.

Polone also slams animal-watchdog group PETA, says that it is partly to blame for “fomenting negative publicity around these events with great energy.”

“Lastly, I hope you’ll think about PETA and its actions in all of this. Not only have they been circulating the TMZ video, which portrays an inaccurate picture of what happened, but they have included a clip from our trailer where you see the dog jumping into a treacherous rushing wall of water. But THAT ISN’T A REAL DOG, it is a computer-generated dog leaping into the water,” Polone clarifies.

In a statement released shortly after the video surfaced, PETA condemned the incident, saying it was “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.”

Still, Polone says that PETA’s attack on the film “does not excuse the mistakes made 15 months ago, irrespective of the fact that the dog in question was unharmed.”

“I swear to you, whether I make another dime on this movie or not has no effect on my life. But if studios stop backing films like A Dog’s Purpose because they fear being attacked by groups like PETA, and kids who are now the age I was when I formed my understanding that animals are deserving of love and protection can’t see those movies, it will absolutely have a negative effect on animal welfare in the future,” he concludes.

A Dog’s Purpose opens in theaters Jan. 27.

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