Animal rights groups are calling on audiences to boycott new movie A Dog’s Purpose after footage emerged of a crew member attempting to push a German Shepherd into turbulent waters during filming.
American site TMZ published the video, which it claims was captured at a pool in Winnipeg, Canada, during filming for the movie in November 2015.
The clip shows an animal handler attempting to put the dog into artificial rapids while other crew members look on.
“He wants to get away, just throw him in,” a man’s voice off camera can be heard saying.
“It’s warm water at least … He ain’t gonna calm down till he goes in the water, you just gotta throw him in.”
The handler attempts to force the reluctant animal into the fast-moving water several times.
“Get his feet wet [so] he learns it’s not cold,” someone off camera says.
“He wants to get away, just throw him in.”
Footage taken from a different angle – and filmed at a different time – shows the dog submerged in the water, before an unidentified person is heard yelling, “Cut it!”. It is unclear whether the dog was forced into the water or entered willingly.
Director Lasse Hallström issued a statement condemning the mistreatment and denying he was on set at the time.
“I am very disturbed,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I did not witness these actions. We were all committed to providing a loving and safe environment for all the animals in the film.
“I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”
Watch the clip below
The German Shepherd is reportedly one of at least five dogs used in the film, which is based on the 2010 book of the same name by W Bruce Cameron and follows a dog over the course of several different lifetimes with different owners.
In a statement, the US arm of prominent animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called for dog lovers to boycott the film “in order to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props”.
The production and distribution companies behind the film, Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures, issued a statement saying they were reviewing the footage.
The statement said the dog in the video, named Hercules, had rehearsed for the water scenes but baulked on the day of the shooting so the production team did not proceed. “Hercules is happy and healthy,” it said.
“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 film stars actor Dennis Quaid, who is yet to comment on the scandal, but Josh Gad, who voices the dog in the film, released a statement on Twitter.
“I signed on to a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen,” Gad wrote.
“Today, however, I saw a disturbing video … While I do not know all of the details and cannot speak to the level of care and caution that went into this moment … I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.”
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) January 19, 2017
– with AAP