After TMZ posted a disturbing behind-the-scenes video of a scared dog being forced to do a stunt involving rushing water, PETA is calling for a boycott of “A Dog’s Purpose.” The American Humane monitor who was on set during the incident has been suspended, CNN reports.
In the video, which TMZ posted yesterday, a German Shepherd named Hercules is reluctant to get into rushing water for a scene. A man is heard commenting, “He ain’t gonna calm down until he goes into the water. Just throw him in.” The terrified dog is eventually forced into the water and immediately tries to get back out. He’s later shown submerged underwater.
The scene, as seen in the trailer, is one in which a police dog is supposed to perform a heroic rescue by leaping off a bridge.
The outcry has been immediate, with PETA calling for a boycott and even the film’s star, producer and director — all of whom say they were not on set at the time — condemning the incident.
Director Lasse Hallstrom, in a series of tweets, wrote:
“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. We were all committed to providing a loving 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. I have been a lifelong animal lover and A DOG’S PURPOSE is my third film about dogs. The animals’ safety was of utmost priority. We were all committed to providing a loving, respectful and safe environment for all the animals in the film.”
The film’s producer Gavin Polone told Deadline he was “horrified”:
The first thing I asked was, ‘Is the dog OK?’ He’s fine. But if I had seen that, I would have stopped it in a minute. People have to be held responsible for this. It was someone’s job to watch out for this kind of thing. Why didn’t they? This is something I’ve written about before, whether it be circus animals or animals on set. American Humane are supposed to be there supervising. That’s their job that someone is paid a lot of money to do. Why wasn’t this stopped? There needs to be a better system than this.”
Actor Josh Gad, who was never on set, but voices the main dog, shared a heartfelt letter on Twitter, in which he said he was “shaken and sad” by the dog’s treatment.