Amblin’s new movie, A Dog’s Purpose, has been rocked by scandals and allegations of animal abuse. But do those charges hold water?
Being British, the only thing guaranteed to make me cry (apart from catching my twig and berries in my zipper) are films about animals. Real life people die? Meh. Movies about cancer and sadness and tear-jerking romance? Le shrug. But put an animal in the movie, and I’ve got tears streaming down my cheeks like that kid from the ‘Leave Britney Alone‘ video.
Hence I have absolutely no shame in admitting that the trailer to Amblin’s new movie, A Dog’s Purpose, made me cry. The flipping trailer. I got super choked up and my bottom lip quivered and quite frankly I wasn’t sure if I needed to book my tickets for opening night, or scrub all mention of the film’s title from my memory and never speak of it again.
Obviously, I’m buying tickets.
Or, at least, I was planning to – until TMZ broke the horrific news that A Dog’s Purpose had concealed scenes of animal abuse during the movie, and PeTA had started calling for animal lovers to boycott the movie.
The issue was some leaked, behind-the-scenes footage that appeared to show a terrified German Shepherd being forced into churning water, and then getting swept under the waves for an appalling four seconds. The video on TMZ‘s website heavily implied the dog was harmed, and it was clear the animal didn’t want to perform the stunt it was intended to.
I was kind of upset by this, because obviously I do not want to support or condone a movie that allowed animals to be hurt during its filming… but did the stories hold water?
Cracks began to appear in the TMZ narrative when Gavin Polone, producer of the movie, wrote a column in The Hollywood Reporter explaining what had happened – admitting that the events in the leaked footage were “absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened” and that the animal handlers responsible “should be held accountable and never used again by that studio or its affiliates.”
But he also warned: “there is more to this story that I think should be known.”
As Gavin explains: “In the full footage of the rehearsal for the scene, you can see the dog not only unafraid of the water but desperate to jump in. In fact, he had to be held back by the trainer from going in too soon.”
He adds: “Before the first real take, the handlers were asked to change the start point of the dog from the left side, where he had rehearsed, to the right side. That, evidentially, is what caused him to be spooked. When the dog didn’t want to do the scene from the new position, they cut, though not soon enough, and then went back to the original position. The dog was comfortable and went in on his own and they shot the scene. The TMZ video only shows the unfinished take of when the dog was on the right side. What is clear from viewing all the footage was that the dog was NEVER forced into the water.”
The incident was troubling, but not as bad as it was made out to be.
“When they shot the scene, you can see that there is a calmer path in the artificial water turbulence for the dog to move through. This is not visible in the TMZ video. You can also see, at the end of the scene, the dog going underwater for four seconds, which never should have happened, and then the diver and handlers lifting the dog out of the pool. The dog then shook off and trotted around the pool, unharmed and unfazed. They only did one take of the full scene and then ended for the day. TMZ’s edited version gives the impression that the dog was thrown in and eventually drowned, since the two parts seem to be connected. You never see him pulled out and OK. This is highly misleading.”
So, the dog didn’t drown. He’s fine, and actually participated willingly with the stunt even after being nearly forced into the water earlier. Or, at least, that’s the official version of events. But it’s a lot more credible than TMZ‘s.
In fact, no animals were hurt during the filming of A Dog’s Purpose – and yet PeTA is still calling for a boycott.
That’s perhaps because PeTA are an aggressively unethical organization, who rake in millions through their hyperbolic media campaigns (like targeting kids with campaigns such as Mommy Kills Animals) while at the same time slaughtering thousands of animals placed under their protection.
PeTA animal shelters actually kill 90% of animals given to them to be rehomed, as opposed to other animal shelters, which generally rehome 90% or more of their animals. You got that right – despite being the best-funded animal rights organization in America, they slaughter almost all animals given to them to be rehomed; while other lesser-funded shelters rehome almost all of them. In fact, sometimes PeTA employees don’t even bother to leave the parking lot before killing the animals they promised to be rehomed – and even Snopes confirm that they have been involved in multiple incidents of stealing and euthanizing beloved family pets.
I went into a little too much detail there… Suffice to say, PeTA’s calls to boycott A Dog’s Purpose carry about as much weight as their complaints when President Obama swatted a fly during an interview. They’re just doing it for the publicity and the money, and it’s clear their version of events doesn’t line up with the facts.
What my research has revealed is that if you give a shit about animals, A Dog’s Purpose is not the film you should be boycotting. In fact, with it’s message about the importance of rehoming shelter animals, it could be a great thing for the millions of dogs in shelters and homes nationwide.
Where was your outrage when The Hobbit hit movie theaters? Despite the American Humane Association issuing the disclaimer that “no animals were hurt” during filming, a whopping 27 animals died during filming from mistreatment. In fact, animal injuries and death during filmmaking is rife; and the irony is that the American Humane Association still issue that “no animals were hurt” disclaimer because it only counts if the animals were ‘deliberately’ hurt during filming.
(So, sorry Cannibal Holocaust. No disclaimer for you.)
Long story short, the incident of animal cruelty on the set of A Dog’s Purpose was blown out of proportion by predatory news outlets and a crooked charity (“Fake News!” as our Cheesit in Chief might call it.) Despite that, the producers of the movie still feel awful about it. Animal handlers have been blacklisted from the industry as a result, and the American Humane Association is under the spotlight now their ineptitude has been highlighted so starkly.
So go and see A Dog’s Purpose with a clear conscience – and if you really want to make a difference, consider rehoming a dog from your local shelter.
A Dog’s Purpose is released nationwide this Friday.