What should be a triumphant weekend for Universal's A Dog's Purpose is now in stormy waters after a shocking video of a terrified German Shepherd dog being forced into a turbulent wave pool emerged from behind the scenes.
In response to this footage, which packs an extra punch as the movie is clearly aimed at animal lovers, Universal has chosen to cancel the premiere altogether. The studio has also issued a statement about how the video (which was filmed while director Lasse Hallström claims he was off set) should not overshadow the movie's positive message about the bond between humans and their animal companions.
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Universal also made it clear that, although Hercules was obviously distressed in the video, the dog sustained no physical injuries from being forced into the water against his will.
The Humane Society of the United States has also issued a statement to distance the organization from the footage, as the film set was being overseen by a humane society with a similar name:
"The HSUS is disheartened by the footage released by TMZ showing a frightened German Shepherd being forced into a turbulent situation during the filming of A Dog’s Purpose. We are glad to hear that Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures will investigate the incident. For all of us who’ve been fortunate to experience friendships with dogs, what was shown in the video is certainly not a dog’s purpose.
We do want to clarify that The American Humane Association, which was on the set, is in no way affiliated with or connected to The Humane Society of the United States. American Humane has long promoted its “No Animals Were Harmed” program on movie sets, but we’ve sometimes been critical of its handling of allegations of cruelty and related issues. In this case, the AHA representative on the set did not speak up for the animal, and it is our understanding that the person has been suspended."
While cancelling the premiere might seem like a drastic movie, it is probably a wise decision considering the public outcry:
The last thing Universal and A Dog's Purpose need is a protest kicking off at the premiere, further damaging the movie's box office performance, but it's hard to see how this animal lover catered tale can possibly avoid becoming a flop now.
Would you pay to see A Dog's Purpose after seeing the treatment of Hercules on set?