When the trailer for the movie, “A Dog’s Purpose” first circulated, audiences were excited about this emotional, animal-friendly film. The movie’s premise focuses on a dog’s existence from its own point of view as he is consistently reincarnated into multiple canines. This plot would seemingly pull on the heartstrings of dog-lovers everywhere. Universal Studios even used “A Dog’s Purpose” to promote dog adoptions and vowed to donate money to Best Friends Animal Society. However, feelings towards the film drastically shifted when a video was released showing a German Sheppard being forced into moving water on the set of the movie.
TMZ released the footage, which shows a man holding the frightened dog as he tries to force the dog into churning waters. The leaked video’s release caused an immediate reaction among the public. People took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their views about the apparent abuse of the dog. American Humane, a group that monitors and ensures the safety of animals on film sets, originally suspended their representative on the film and hired an investigator to look further into the incident. Among others, PETA boycotted the film and is currently offering a $5,000 reward to the anonymous person who leaked, or possibly sold, the controversial video to TMZ.
American Humane ultimately released a statement that the investigation proved no mistreatment of animals on the film set. Additionally, many of the actors and members of the film crew have spoken out against the leaked video. Gavin Polone, one of the producers of the film, penned an article explaining that the dog was actually attempting to jump [back] into the water and the trainer was merely holding him back from jumping in too soon. Bruce Cameron, the director, asserted the same thing on the film’s Facebook page and Dennis Quaid called the video a “sham.”
Regardless of whether people choose to believe American Humane’s investigation findings and film crew’s statements, or whether they believe that what they saw in the leaked video was truly animal abuse, this situation brings into light the importance of animal safety on the sets of film and television. As of May 2014, all 50 states have felony animal cruelty provisions. Additionally, Ringling Bros. removed elephants from their shows in 2016, making for another positive step in the regulation of animal safety. As states implement stricter felony laws against animal abuse, it is still important for individuals to continue to come forward and report any signs of animal harm in order to penalize animal abusers and bring to light how often these crimes actually occur.