ByBrooke Geller, writer at
Awkward nerd, aspiring shieldmaiden and friend to all doggos.
Brooke Geller

Director Lasse Hallström and actor Josh Gad have spoken out in regards to a reported act of animal abuse on the set of their latest film, . The film follows the many reincarnations of a dog as he attempts to discover his purpose throughout several lifetimes. The movie features an array of dogs, from Corgis to German Shepherds.

A Dog's Purpose [Credit: Universal]
A Dog's Purpose [Credit: Universal]

However, a recently released video has caused outrage over the alleged mistreatment of one of the dogs in particular: A German Shepherd called Hercules. The video, released by TMZ, shows the dog clawing at the edge of a pool filled with churning water as his handler unsuccessfully tries to force him in. After a few attempts, the video cuts to Hercules being pulled out of the water by crew after he disappears under the surface.

The stunt looks like it could have been for the following scene from the film, where a police dog rescues a person from drowning:

A Dog's Purpose [Credit: Universal]
A Dog's Purpose [Credit: Universal]

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Public Outrage

The scandalous incident has sparked strong responses from animal lovers. The Naperville Area Humane Society cancelled its screening of the film, whilst infamous animal rights organization PETA are calling for a mass boycott. The film — which is still yet to be released — has already received low ratings on IMDb.

A representative from the American Humane Association was on set at the time, tasked with overseeing the welfare of the dog. The association told TMZ that they have since suspended that representative, and will be launching a full investigation into the incident.

A Dog's Purpose [Credit: Universal]
A Dog's Purpose [Credit: Universal]

Mixed Reactions

Meanwhile, production company Amblin Entertainment have issued a statement on the "edited footage", insisting that "Hercules is happy and healthy":

"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."

However, not everyone involved with the film agrees. Director Lasse Hallström said he was "very disturbed by the video":

[Credit: Lasse Hallström Twitter]
[Credit: Lasse Hallström Twitter]

Producer Gavin Polone has been answering questions about the incident non-stop on his Twitter account. Polone is a strong supporter of animal rights and a vegan, and says was not on set at the time. However, he stated that he was equally "upset" over both the video, and the fact that it had been kept secret for so long:

Gad's Statement Divides Fans

Josh Gad, who voices the film's canine protagonist, was also not on set, but has demanded an "explanation" from both the studio and production team:

The statement, which he posted to both his Twitter and Facebook, has triggered mixed reactions. Some of his fans have questioned his support of "radical group" PETA, citing unusually high euthanasia rates in PETA shelters, as well as their reputation for using offensive marketing campaigns to promote their message.

In the past, PETA has compared animal abuse to the holocaust, modern white supremacy movements, and real-life murder cases. They have also been called out for their heavy use of both sexualizing women and body shaming in their advertisements, and have even linked consumption of dairy to autism.

Will you be watching A Dog's Purpose on its January 27 release, or are you going to boycott the film?

(Source: TMZ, Business Wire)


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