A Dog's Purpose Controversy

A Dog’s Purpose Controversy



The trailer for upcoming film A Dog’s Purpose, which will be released in April here in the UK, went viral online last summer giving a teaser of the family story of a dog’s search for the meaning of life through his reincarnation.  The video was funny, tear-jerking and, heart-warming and created a buzz around the film months before its release.  However, recent bad press concerning the treatment of animals on set has created much negativity before the film has even hit the big screen.

On January 18th, TMZ released a video showing a German shepherd being forced into fast-moving water, reportedly on the set of A Dog’s Purpose in November 2015.  The 50-second clip shows the dog, named Hercules, struggling against his trainer and clawing at the edge of the water, as a male voice in the background is heard to say “Just throw him in.”  The video concludes with the same dog being pulled under the water and trainers rushing to help as cut is called.  The footage has caused a major backlash against the film, with many calling for a complete boycott, including several PETA protests and a Change.org petition.

The release of the video sparked an independent third party investigation into the treatment of the dogs on the set of the film, during which Universal cancelled the film’s premiere and press junket.  Some of those involved with the production of the film have still found a way to speak out on the alleged mistreatment.  Director, Lasse Hallstrom, who was apparently present on set the day the footage was recorded, published a series of tweets denying his involvement and expressing his upset by the video.  Unsurprisingly, film star, Dennis Quaid, was questioned during appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.  He expressed his confusion over why the video was not released at the time it was filmed over a year ago, and believes that it was edited to look bad.  Film producer, and animal activist, Gavin Polone also spoke out claiming that the dog had been trained on the opposite side of the water and was thus confused when they switched sides to film; but there have also been accusations of alternative facts being spun to the press.

It brings up questions asking if animals should be used in the entertainment industry at all.  PETA have released information that animal trainers on film and television sets often violate the Federal Welfare Act as cited by the U.S Department of Agriculture and that the “No Animals Were Harmed” announcement at the start of films is misleading as the animal’s time off-set and during pre-production is not brought into consideration.  Film and television should take note from the several advertisement agencies, who are now refusing to use animals in their productions due to advancing technology. 

Details of the investigation have now been reported with it being found that no animal abuse occurred, although The American Humane Society, who are responsible for enforcing the safety regulations for animals during filming, did suspend the safety monitor for A Dog’s Purpose.  The investigators released that Hercules was specifically chosen to perform the scene, and was not stressed as he went on to perform the scene shortly afterwards.  It was believed that that the crew should have been gentler and should have recognised the dog’s stress signs much earlier. Despite the bad press, Universal still decided to release A Dog’s Purpose in the US on January 27th and it proved to be successful taking in $18.4 million during its opening weekend and gaining the No. 2 spot at the box office.  However, the film is likely to always be linked to this controversy. 

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