When we saw the video released by TMZ (below), purporting to show us a scared German Shepherd being forced into rushing water, most animal lovers were pretty upset. Reaction has been overwhelmingly negative from the animal-loving public that would (would have?) paid to see this movie, which is due out Friday.
But was everything as it appeared in the video?
In a statement to TMZ from Birds & Animals Unlimited, the organization that trained the dogs, not so much. They say that the dog had trained jumping into the water from the left side of the pool and had been happily doing so all day. But at one point, someone asked if Hercules could jump into the pool from the right side, not the left. But Hercules didn't want anything to do with the new location. Was he scared? Or was he simply telling the crew that's the wrong side?
The producer of the film is Gavin Palone. And in an article for The Hollywood Reporter, he revealed that he's got a dog and two cats, that "love of animals defines [his] existence," and that he is active in animal welfare causes. He brings none of this up to excuse what happens; and after watching the film of that day, identified two things that should definitely NOT have happened:
As with the TMZ video that you saw, two things were evident: 1) the dog handler tries to force the dog, for 35 to 40 seconds, into the water when, clearly, he didn’t want to go in; and 2) in a separate take filmed sometime later, the dog did go into the water, on his own, and, at the end, his head is submerged for about 4 seconds. These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened.
Palone takes issue with the American Humane Society (which monitors on-set animals) for not taking their responsibilities all that seriously. He questions the motives of the person who put together the film clip, for selectively editing one moment into another to make a false case, and for holding onto the video for well over a year before releasing it.
His most damning words are for PETA -- the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Lastly, I hope you’ll think about PETA and its actions in all of this. As I’ve said, it has called for a boycott of the movie and, unlike any other major animal welfare group, has been fomenting negative publicity around these events with great energy. Not only have they been circulating the TMZ video, which portrays an inaccurate picture of what happened, but they have included a clip from our trailer where you see the dog jumping into a treacherous rushing wall of water. But THAT ISN’T A REAL DOG, it is a computer-generated dog leaping into the water. Isn’t that the definition of "fake news"? In another post, they show a German Shepherd in a dismal steel cage, which isn’t our dog. Again, misleading.
With what I've seen from PETA over the years, they seem less an animal rights organization and more a fringe group dedicated to their own existence. Like a lot fringe groups, it's not about helping -- it's about winning. Amidst the noise they create, they also do some good; but mostly they make real animal lovers question whey they'd support something PETA also supports. Overall, they do more harm than good.
I can totally believe that this video, widely circulated by PETA, is not a reflection of reality. I read producer Gavin Palone's statement fully, and I find his words to be truthful. You can tell an animal lover. And I'm sure he regrets not being on the scene this day. Considering who's trying to stop him.... I'll take Gavin Palone at his word.
If you are having second thoughts about seeing A Dog's Purpose, read Gavin Palone's article and judge for yourself. The movie opens Friday.