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Difficulties with A Dog’s Purpose

Sara Hamidi

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Dogs and animals have a reputation for bringing joy in movies and television shows, but have they always been treated safely? On January 18th, TMZ released a video showing dog handlers on the set of A Dog’s Purpose forcing a German shepherd into turbulent water. According to ABC News, producer Gavin Polone says, “The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under.”

Following the unauthorized release of the video, PETA, also known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called for a boycott of the family-friendly dog movie.
After news of the leaked video spread throughout social media, an investigation was launched to determine if the video was an accurate representation of the events taking place on set. According to CNN, the American Humane, an organization that was hired to watch for the safety of the dog, explained that the investigation proved, “no animals were harmed in those scenes and numerous preventative safety measures were in place.”
The animal-protecting organization says the investigation “was conducted by ‘a respected animal cruelty expert’ who viewed additional footage from the set and talked with eyewitnesses,” as stated by CNN. However, the group admits they should have handled the dog in a more sensitive manner when they noticed its discomfort in the stunt scene. The german shepherd is healthy and safe according to Amblin Entertainment.
After the video taken in October 2015 was leaked, PETA called for a boycott of the film in order to make a statement regarding the mistreatment of dogs in movies and television. Soon, the LA premiere of the movie was canceled. According to the New York Times, “Amblin Entertainment, the film’s producer, and Universal Pictures, its distributor, said in a joint statement on Thursday night that it was in the ‘best interest’ to cancel the premiere.” In response to the boycott, producer Gavin Polone wrote an essay addressing any issues regarding the situation. According to ABC news, he wrote, “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.” Polone claims the dog was never abused and says TMZ’s edited video showed a misinterpretation of what actually happened on set.

COURTESY OF ARTURO NIKOLAI.
A German shepherd is forced into violent water in a video shot on set of “A Dog’s Purpose.”

Despite the drama regarding animal abuse, A Dog’s Purpose earned 18.4 million dollars its opening weekend. However, according to the Huffington Post, the movie could have earned up to 25 million dollars if it were not for all the negative publicity: “What happened did hurt the box office,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “I think $25 million was easily in reach before the controversy.” Emma Kreider, Wilcox’s own Animal Club president says, “I definitely think the video will affect the movie’s success because a lot of people just saw that video and they didn’t really bother to follow up and make sure it was credible.” The past few weeks have been tough for A Dog’s Purpose cast and crew, but they hope viewers will look past the negative exposure and watch their doggy-movie.

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The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California
Difficulties with A Dog’s Purpose