‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Cast and Crew React to Horrifying Video of Maltreatment of a Dog on Set

TMZ released a video from the set of A Dog’s Purpose that showed a German Shepherd being forced to swim in a manufactured stream with rough waters.

The scene was filmed in a pool outside of Winnipeg, Canada in November 2015. Sources tell TMZ that eight outboard motors “were used to churn the water and recreate a rushing river.” The video (above) shows a trainer repeatedly and forcibly submerging the dog into the water as he tries to stay on dry land. As the video went viral, PETA requested that dog lovers boycott the film “to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props.” PETA’s SVP Lisa Lange added, “This movie is directed towards those who love dogs and, clearly, this is not a dog’s purpose.”

Ablin Entertainment and Universal Pictures released a statement saying that the film “is a celebration of the special connection between humans and their dogs. And in the spirit of this relationship, the Amblin production team followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals.” The production and distribution companies will “is a celebration of the special connection between humans and their dogs,” the statement said. “And in the spirit of this relationship, the Amblin production team followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals.”

“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. 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. Hercules is happy and healthy.”

The film’s director, Lasse Hallström, tweeted the following in response to the video: “I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A Dog’s Purpose,” he tweeted. “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.”

Additionally, actor Josh Gad, who voiced a dog in the film, said in a Twitter statement that he was “shaken” after he watched the video. “A few months ago, I was approached to lend my voice to the film A Dog’s Purpose. As I sat in a dark screening room, I was beyond touched and moved by what I saw…a movie that captures the beauty and pain of loving a pet. I signed on for a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen,” wrote Gad. “Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German Shepherd being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film. While I do not know all the details and cannot speak to the level of care and caution that went into this moment (as I was never on set for the making of this film), I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.”

The American Humane Associaton issued a statement to E! News in which they detailed the repercussions of the video. “When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped,” the organization told E! News. “We are placing the safety representative who was on the set on administrative leave immediately and are bringing in an independent third party to conduct an investigation into this matter.”

Longtime animal rights activist and producer of the film Gavin Polone told Deadline that he was “horrified” by the video. ” If I had been, I would have stopped it. All I can say is that I hope that bringing this out leads to better treatment of animals. I know the studio is outraged and investigating this,” said Polone.