UPDATE: “A Dog’s Purpose” Premiere Cancelled After Video Of Potential Animal Abuse Is Released

UPDATE: After the video of potential animal abuse on the set of the upcoming film “A Dog’s Purpose,” Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment have decided to cancel the premiere event and press junket, originally scheduled for Saturday, 1/27.

Universal released a statement today about their decision to cancel the event, citing Amblin’s ongoing investigation, and said it is “in the best interest of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ to cancel this weekend’s premiere and press junket.

There is no word on if the premiere will be rescheduled, or if the film’s release next weekend will be effected. We will keep you updated on any continuing developments.

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The ubiquitous statement “no animals were harmed during production” isn’t always accurate, and a recent video released by TMZ from the set of “A Dog’s Purpose” shows a disturbing example of the treatment of at least one german shepherd on set, Hercules. He was involved in a water scene, and the actions surrounding the filming are reprehensible.

Amblin Entertainment, the company that produced the film, released a statement addressing the video.

“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,” the statement read. “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.”

The statement that they “did not proceed with filming the shot” after Hercules resisted doesn’t line up with what is on the video, but a full investigation is ongoing.

The film’s director, Lasse Hallstrom quickly took to Twitter to condemn the film and demand an investigation into the stunt.

Actor Josh Gad, who voices the dog’s inner monologue, also took to Twitter with a long and heartfelt response to the video.

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Mallory Blair, CPDT-KA, our in-house expert on dog training, addressed the extreme fear and stress Hercules went through:

“You don’t have to be a certified dog training professional to understand that this dog is frightened. Hercules was confronted with a perceived threat to his life, and he went into ‘fight or flight’ mode. He chose flight, but unfortunately that option was taken away from him.

His handler decided to force Hercules into the water without the possibility of escape. This technique, commonly called “flooding,” is not used by trainers who rely on science-based methods because it’s not humane and it almost never works. Another example of flooding would be taking a noise-phobic dog to a firework show. Do you think that dog is going to suddenly love fireworks at the end of the show? Not in the least.

What’s even more upsetting in this case is that his anxiety and fear were so extreme that, after he was forced in, he struggled to keep his head above water. As a trainer, I can’t help but wonder what kind of behavioral issues he’ll have with water, strangers, and behind handled in the future. Also, there were likely plenty of options to avoid this outcome, including finding a different dog (who enjoys water), stopping the rapids, or providing better preparation and training to make Hercules genuinely comfortable with the situation.”

The American Humane Association, who monitors animal safety on film sets and decides if the film can use the “no animals were harmed” label, had a representative on set (standard practice for when animal actors are used) who has been suspended.

Thankfully, Hercules is safe and healthy, but no one knows how he was affected mentally by the stunt. Hopefully the investigation is able to bring justice to anyone that had a hand in the mistreatment of Hercules.

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