American Humane have issued a press release stating that no animals were harmed on the set of A Dog's Purpose, including the German Shepherd shown in the infamous video leaked by TMZ.
The organization conducted an independent investigation into what appeared to show a distressed dog being forced into water, concluding that the video was "deliberately edited" in order to "mischaracterize" the incident.
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Not The Whole Picture
According to American Humane, Hercules the stunt dog "was selected for his love of the water, and had been professionally trained and conditioned for the water scenes over the course of six weeks, using positive training techniques."
The report also states that "safety precautions and protocols" were upheld using a combination of pre-shoot meetings, full supervision by Certified Animal Safety Representatives as well as five experts, and a full examination to determine the stress levels and safety of Hercules. A follow-up check from a veterinarian confirmed that he was "healthy":
"Although the dog was momentarily stressed, based on studying additional footage not included in the video, body posture, and the fact that he quickly and willingly went into the water and performed the scene soon afterwards, a separate, independent, board certified Veterinary Behaviorist brought in to examine the events concluded that there was 'no lasting stress response or conditioned fear of the water as a result.' Eyewitnesses also report that following the water scene, the dog was wagging his tail and wanted to go back into the water."
Was It A Set-Up?
The 15 month period between the video being taken and its release is pretty suspicious. American Humane says the video "was deliberately edited for the purpose of misleading the public and stoking outrage":
"The decisions by the individual or individuals who captured and deliberately edited the footage, and then waited longer than 15 months to release the manipulated video only days before the movie’s premiere, raise serious questions about their motives and ethics."
This is a sentiment echoed by producer Gavin Polone, who said the issue should have been "investigated immediately".
Are PETA To Blame?
Veterinarian and head of American Humane's "No Animals Were Harmed" initiative Dr. Kwane Stewart highlighted animal rights group PETA in the report, criticizing their endorsement of the video as well as their protests against the use of animals in entertainment:
"It is disappointing that the public was misled by a manufactured controversy promoted by a radical organization like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with a mission to remove animals from films and other parts of our lives. We are the first to address and fight cruelty and abuse, and no such things happened on the set of A Dog Purpose."
The mention of PETA, as well their reputation for outlandish and controversial marketing campaigns, has possibly caused confusion amongst the public. Some people now believe PETA are responsible for editing and spreading the video, though that hasn't actually been confirmed:
PETA protested outside movie theaters during the opening weekend of A Dog's Purpose, targeting those buying tickets to the film.
Too Little, Too late?
Despite what the report may say, many are still claiming that the way the dog was handled in the video is still cruel and inappropriate. The report itself does state that the treatment of Hercules "should have been gentler and signs of stress recognized earlier", and dog lovers have now taken to social media to express their outrage:
A Dog's Purpose has also received average reviews from critics, currently holding an underwhelming core of 43% on Metacritic.
Has the report changed your mind on going to watch A Dog's Purpose?