“A Dog’s Purpose” does not include being used as a prop on a movie set 

A Dog's Purpose
Courtesy of A Dog's Purpose

They’re our best friends, our confidants, our entertainers, and so much more. So why do we as humans do things that are so cruel and thoughtless? The irony is incredible. A frightened dog gets tossed around on the movie set “A Dog’s Purpose” while  filming a story that explores the incredible bond between dogs and humans.

So like many of you I’m sure, when I watched the video of this terrified German Shepard named Hercules being thrown into the water, I was appalled. Then, I was hoping that there was some kind of reasonable explanation for this. There’s more to the story, but no excuse to be had. See the video for yourself…

The leaked video

A trainer is seen trying to push the dog into the rushing water. A man in the background says, “don’t worry it’s warm water at least. He ain’t gonna calm down until he goes in the water.” Cue a few seconds in- the dog is seen struggling to keep his head above the water and producers can be heard yelling, “Cut it, cut it!” while the dog is pulled out.

Writer Bruce Cameron denies any wrongdoing on behalf of production staff

The writer, W. Bruce Cameron claims that this is an edited video that doesn’t actually reflect the true events, and that the dog was never frantic or in harms way. They say that the dog willingly entered the water earlier in the day and that the dog just didn’t want to jump in from that side of the pool. They say when the dog was taken to the other side he willingly got in and performed the stunt without an issue.

Hercules- the dog at the center of the scandal

Hercules, A Dog's Purpose
Courtesy of Ablin Entertainment

A lot to lose

Timing couldn’t be any worse for producers, Cameron, and others who have a big stake in the film. In the wake of the controversy, the premiere was canceled. It is set to open this weekend however, and is on track to bring in $18 million, which is close to what it was slated to pull in before the uproar.
Perhaps American’s attention spans are that short they’ve already forgotten. Maybe they’re choosing to ignore the footage and hope for the best.

I for one have not forgotten. This is a movie I have been looking forward to seeing since I saw the first trailer months ago. And now, I can’t get the disturbing footage out of my head. I’m deeply disappointed to say the least.

American Humane, the organization who awards its “no animals were harmed in the production of this movie” certification to films who meet their qualifications have released a statement.

“American Humane has reviewed the video and we are disturbed and concerned by the footage. When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped. We are placing the safety representative who was on the set on administrative leave immediately and are bringing in an independent third party to conduct an investigation into this matter.”

A Dog's Purpose
Courtesy of A Dog’s Purpose

Producer Gavin Polone’s take on the matter

One person I’ve been waiting to hear from is Gavin Polone, producer of the movie. And boy did he have a whole lot to say. As angry as I am about the whole situation, I have to admit- he has dedicated his life to furthering the cause of animals.

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 Shepard into a pool. 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.

He says that he watched all of the film shot on the day in question, and fully admits that 1. The trainer attempted to force a dog into water when he clearly did not feel comfortable, and 2. In a separate take the dog (who enters on his own accord that time) ends up with his head fully submerged under water for 4 seconds. He follows these two admissions with the words all of us dog lovers have been wanting to hear- these things were “inexcusable” and “should never have happened.”

Thank you for that admission, Mr. Polone. Perhaps now that we have left full cover-up mode, we can have a conversation. He goes on to say that there should have been less turbulence in the water, and more support so the dog never would have been submerged in the first place.

After all, dogs are smarter than us dumb human folk, and typically a better judge of situations anyways. He was probably terrified because he saw the water and immediately recognized it as an unsafe situation… and I’ll be damned. The irony- which Mr. Polone himself admits (and has even written about)- is how ineffective the AHA has been in the past. In his piece he admits it was stupid that he did not fight for an alternative presence to guarantee the safety and well being of the dogs on set. Perhaps we all need to re-think the movies we support with our almighty dollars, and demand more effective/competent organizations take over. There is far too much money to be made on animals in movies, and this whole debacle should make us curious what may have transpired on the sets of past films supposedly garnering the “AHA stamp of approval.”

Why producers call the video misleading

Mr. Polone says that handlers were asked to change the starting side from the left to the right. It was then that the dog became spooked and he says at this point they cut and went back to the original position. The TMZ video only shows the unfinished take of filming from the right side. He states that upon viewing all of the footage, “it is clear the dog was never forced into the water.” He also says that the TMZ video never shows the calmer path of water for the dog to move through.

He notes that a trainer, diver, and handlers lifted to dog out of the pool, and that the dog left “unharmed and unfazed.” Since the TMZ video all appears connected, it gives the impression that the dog was thrown in and nearly drowned.

Furthermore, PETA which has been fervently circulating the video, depicts a dog jumping into treacherous waters- except the dog is computer generated. Polone says the organization also show a German Shepard in a steel cage, “which isn’t our dog.” Essentially,  a blatant lie.
He calls into question why instead of stopping the incident, the person continued to film. Or why in the name of the health and well-being of these dogs, this individual held onto the footage for months until 1 week before the premiere. I think we all know the answer to this one- more money to be made, of course.

There are many in the wrong here. And may I suggest, PETA is no animal rights organization? They are a killing animal organization, with a euthanization rate of 80-90% in some of their “shelters.”

I challenge you to read Gavin Polone’s entire piece, “A Dog’s Purpose Outcry, What Really Happened, and Who’s to Blame.” I believe he’s telling the truth.

Where I stand

I sympathize with Gavin Polone, I do. I think he’s been forthcoming and is trying to do the right thing. I think TMZ fabricated a video together to drum up public outcry and make the video as profitable as possible. I think PETA is a lying organization that has a completely alternative agenda that doesn’t necessarily involve protecting animals.

But at the end of the day, my eyes cannot unsee. There was a living being- an intelligent beautiful creature in fact, who was used at his own detriment to create a movie. Even though he doesn’t appear “harmed” per say, he was likely frightened, and for good reason. I cannot help but wonder what other dirty things must go on behind closed curtains to create these movies, and I for one will not subsidize these behaviors.

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