Dogs & Laws

‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Author Weighs in on Allegations of Abuse on Set

via YouTube

via YouTube

Footage of a scene in the upcoming Hollywood film, A Dog’s Purpose shot in November of 2015 outraged dog lovers, sparked a nationwide boycott of the film, and resulted in a public relations nightmare for both Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures less than two weeks before the highly anticipated film’s premiere date.

In the edited video, obtained and released by TMZ,  one of the film’s several animal actors, Hercules, a German Shepherd appears to be fearful, desperately resisting shooting a scene inside a pool of churning water and rapids. The video footage shows a dog handler appearing to force the animal into rushing water, despite the dog’s desperate attempts to remain on dry land. The dog was eventually dropped into the water where he almost immediately submerged. It is unclear if the dog was trained to go under water rather than tread on top, but someone in the background of the video yelled, “Cut it!” … and handlers rushed to pull the dog from the water.

The author of the book by the same name and co-screenwriter, W. Bruce Cameron says the edited video released to the public “mis-characterizes” what actually happened on set. He posted the following statement to Facebook:

First I want to thank everyone—and there have been literally thousands of you—who have written to express support. Your words and thoughts mean the world to us.

I found the video we’ve all seen to be shocking because when I was on set, the ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs.

If the people who shot and edited the video thought something was wrong, why did they wait fifteen months to do anything about it, instead of immediately going to the authorities?

I have since viewed footage taken of the day in question, when I wasn’t there, and it paints an entirely different picture.

The written commentary accompanying the edited video mischaracterizes what happened. The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water—I’ve seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool. When he was asked to perform the stunt from the other side of the pool, which was not how he had been doing it all day, he balked. The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay—the water wasn’t his issue, it was the location that was the issue, and the dog happily did the stunt when he was allowed to return to his original spot.

I also didn’t like it when Hercules’s head briefly went under water, but there was a scuba diver and a trainer in the pool to protect him. He loves the water, wasn’t in danger, and wasn’t upset.

On a movie where the mantra was the safety and comfort of the dogs, mistakes were made, and everything needs to be done to make sure those errors are not repeated. But the reason American Humane certifies that no animals were harmed during the making of the film is that no animals were harmed during the making of the film.

I celebrate animal rescue and am proud of the values that show up in A Dog’s Purpose. — Bruce

The unedited video footage is currently being used in several independent investigations into the alleged abuse on set. It is expected to be released publicly after those investigations are complete.

Will you be in theaters in support of the film when it’s released on January 27th, or will you be boycotting it? Please weigh in with a comment below!

68 Comments

68 Comments

  1. Sue

    Jan 30, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    We plan on seeing it. Alot of people I know went to see it. I will not lower myself believing gossip. Hope everybody goes and sees it and form their own opinion. I got the books and really glad they made a movie.I think some of these negative people are part of the Trump protests and just like to protest on everything.

    • Michelle

      Mar 15, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      What on earth does Donald Trump have to do with ANY of this ?? Thought I'd heard or seen it all …. It is people like you who divide this country This has NOTHING to do with Politics and everything to do with animal welfare.

  2. Sue

    Jan 30, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I had just read the book and was excited to see the movie. After viewing this clip I will not be seeing the movie. I think the dog was terrified and now they are trying to keep from losing money on the film.

  3. Barbara Fish

    Jan 30, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    No I will not! Marta is our 7th GSD & we use to breed years back. I know the facial expressions on a GSD! And I will never forget the look on Hercules face as the trainer was trying to force him into the water. What "good" dog trainer uses one side of the pool for training purposes & then tries to force the dog into the water on the other side where evidently something was different & was causing the GSD to become frightened & quite anxious! ?

  4. Vicki Healy

    Jan 29, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    My family and I went to see the film last night (Jan. 28). We were aware of the controversy and had seen the film clip in question, but due to comments we had also researched from the book's author, from Ellen DeGeneres, from Dennis Quaid, and from several others we decided to give the film a chance. I'm glad we did. Everyone enjoyed it, from myself and my husband (who are in our 60s), our grown children, our 19-year-old grandson, and our 5-year old granddaughter. I know sometimes it can be difficult to tell, but it appeared that all of the dogs in the film were well treated and content. We are all avid dog lovers and dog owners. We recommend this movie.

  5. Leisa Grill

    Jan 29, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    I will see this film. I love the message. I am not convinced that there was any "abuse." I AM convinced that people these days are over-sensitized to whatever Social Justice issue they focus on and will interpret whatever they see through a lens distorted by emotion. I have three rescue dogs who are the light of my life and do not endorse any real harm to animals. No one who wasn't present actually knows what happened. The dog in question is alive and healthy, I assume. A dog should never be "forced to do something against their will?" What about training? ( If my parents never made me do anything I didn't want to when I was a kid I'd still be eating pizza and ice cream for every meal.) Unfortunately everyone these day's is ready to scream "abuse" because it feels morally superior. Facts are often greyer and more difficult to sort out. I am looking forward to this film and hope that it's message isn't stifled by what I perceive as an overreaction by a certain section of the population that has become self-appointed arbiters of everyone elses' behavior.

  6. Donna

    Jan 28, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Can he explain why Hercules was being pulled out by the collar?

  7. Donna Cornish

    Jan 27, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    I wanted to see the film but being a trainer of Shepherds and many other dogs I see it differently. The dog was in distress, of course monetary reasons are why everyone is speaking out. He says it was because Hercules was use to the other side of the pool. a dog not afraid of water will jump in on any side it doesn't matter. My father and I trained German Shepherds in the 1960's, we were very careful to train them in water and also in heights. It bothers me that the trainers were laughing when I listen to the video. I will be not seeing the film. I regret the author is supporting the actions.

    • Nancy Bernard

      Jan 29, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      I was looking forward to the movie until I read this. NO THANK YOU! If you had to abuse and frighten any animal, I don't want to see it! If money is that important to you, then you better believe millions of us who love and adore animals and treat them as our furry children are outraged by your apparent greed rather than the well being of the dog. If you did do this to Hercules, this will be life altering to him, just as it would to a child. He did not deserve this, and I am passing this on to all of my many animal loving friends who will be as outraged as I am.

  8. Sallymae

    Jan 27, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    I would have loved to see the movie, being an animal lover. I always worry how animals are being treated in film making. this video shows some very bad choices by the handler. Even if the dog is fine now and did the stunt on the other side of the pool it really doesn't matter because the point is what that video shows. The animal was upset and terrified for whatever reason. The author of the book of course is going to say everything was ok and the dog is fine. REALLY! but he still went through that and it really doesn't matter when that video was released. Maybe it was held till the release of the film to make sure it affected how many did go to the movie. I myself am not going to see it. Shame on the handlers!

  9. Diana

    Jan 27, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I was so excited to see this film. However, after seeing this video footage….I will not be seeing this film in the theater after all. I really did not like to see any dog or animal force to do something against their will. His trainer or production crew should have stopped the pool stunt at that point where Hercules did not want to go into the pool. Someone should have given the dog a break & not force the dog to go into the pool. It leaves me wondering what other stunts these dogs had to do against their will & no video tape was around to capture it.

  10. Donna

    Jan 27, 2017 at 7:46 am

    Our family will be going to see the A Dog's Purpose this weekend, and we are looking forward to it.

  11. Sandra

    Jan 26, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Let's see a clip of the dog on the other side of the pool where he was willing to do the stunt happily. Then I will decide.

  12. P.K

    Jan 26, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Sorry even if the location was the problem, I know what I saw an did not like it. I am sure you thought it was OK but no matter if at ANY time a dog was afraid it is inexcusable to trow him into the water if he did not like it!

  13. david e. morgan

    Jan 26, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Someone is not being honest here concerning the investigation of a case of abuse. I think that much of the comment made by the filmmaker is well rehearsed for publicity purposes. What one sees on that film is enough evidence to me that the dog was sincerely upset and should never have been FORCED into the water! PERIOD!!!! And it would have been better to acknowledge that someone had made poor decisions when handling the dog in such a disturbing manner of offense. Why has the film company not provided immediate examples of the safety of the dog during that entire filming of the scene? I would agree that organizations like ASPCA and Humane Society of United States should have been called upon to verify the situation. And we should also set in motion the Federal Legislation Requirement to have outside evaluation and security for all animals used in any of the filming or entertainment circles! Hollywood is known as not being responsible to honesty and transparency. Profit pays more than Safe and Heart Felt Concern for the Animal being FIRST!!! I worry about the repercussions to this lovely dog after this situation happened! Is anyone making certain that Hercules is doing fine and not harmed because he failed to do his job? I wanted to see the movie…
    david e. morgan
    Milan, Ohio

  14. Sue

    Jan 26, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I won't be going to the theater, but I do expect to watch the movie eventually. It is just too soon right now, after the death of my heart dog- the sweetest 16 year old boy who ever lived- and I am sure the theater management would not appreciate a hysterical old lady in the middle of the theater.

  15. Cheryl Zaloudek -Lassiter

    Jan 26, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Without reviewing the video and incident in question, I can not take any side. I do believe that in today's movie wold all precautions are taken into account and are monitored by trained professionals. Until I would have a chance to review all the evidence, it would be impossible to make a determination. I do plan to see he movie because of the message that is told and the actors and actresses involved. Furry and non-furry!

  16. Owen

    Jan 26, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I will see it on opening night the animals are just scared but i am shure after praice on the scene they are just fine and no dogs were hurt

  17. Denise Kastner

    Jan 26, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    It is not just about the German Shepherd's mistreatment I also saw pictures of the Golden Retriver housed in squalor, with an old mattress on it's side. Other pictures of the "stars" were just as poor. I loved the book. I would have loved the movie but knowing what I know now I will not being going to the movie. This isn't an isolated case. In the making of Tolkien series 27 animals died. In Sleepy Hollow the white horse Johnny Depp rode was to be euthanized, for no known reason,so he adopted it. It isn't' just how animals are treated in production, it is how they are cared for when they aren't in the scene. No excuse to make movies with mistreated animals. The author of the book has everything to gain and nothing to lose by disputing the mistreatment. Possibly the 15 month delay of this knowledge was because people were not aware the movie was even being made or that the dogs were being exploited.

    • Carol

      Jan 31, 2017 at 9:11 am

      I don't understand what you said about the delay. What difference does it make if "people were not aware the movie was being made or that the dogs were being exploited." If animals were being abused it should have been reported then not 15 months later. I wonder what the motivation was?

  18. Melody Smith

    Jan 26, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    I hope and pray all the explanations are true. Before any one starts bashing my comments. I truly hope that Hercules handler and owner are not making any animals do stunts that they do not want to do and are just doing it for the money. Again I do not want any bullies bashing me because of my opinion. It would make sense that a portion of the profits from the movie would be earmarked for animal rescue.

  19. Joan

    Jan 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    yes. It is a wonderful and meaningful story that all dog lovers will enjoy. It is full of happiness and joy with a few tears thrown in…that is the true purpose of a dog.

  20. Sindy Smith

    Jan 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Not sure. If there is alternate footage showing Hercules joyfully jumping in the pool performing his stunt, release it to the public! No animals should ever be forced to perform in a movie under such distress!!!

  21. Debbie

    Jan 26, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I will go most definately! This type of media bias has got to stop. The person taking the video waited 15 months to produce this footage to maximize their purchase price. Shame on them!

  22. Charlene Andrzeicik

    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I wouldn't go to ANY movie with animals as the "stars" because these animals are just props for humans. Leave the animals out of films, just as the should be left out of a circus, SeaWorld, off your plate and your coat.

  23. Sandie Abel

    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I hope the guy who tortured that German Shepherd never gets within 100 miles of another dog again.

  24. Pauline Mayrand

    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:49 am

    If there is a video showing the true version of this incident, why not show it? I agree waiting 15 months to leak it out is suspicious in itself. Reveiling the video you say exists, would help us to comprehend what happened. Wouldn't it?

  25. Tami

    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:39 am

    I don't believe this for a second!
    So, I'm still not going to see thes greedy animal users movie.

  26. Tammy Wellock

    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:28 am

    I will be attending the premiere. Thank you for writing this.

  27. Susan Riley

    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Thank you for the clarification! I have posted this in response to people who are still calling for boycotts.

  28. Anna Van Z

    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Sounds abusive to me – where was the American Human Association, I thought they were supposed to be there monitoring it?
    I won't be going to see it.

  29. anita stonecypher

    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:57 am

    to NOT go would be a dishonor to all involved in creating the movie, both 2 and 4-legged. i'm anxiously awaiting the chance to see it.

  30. Regina Porto

    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I think there was a lot of sensationalizing about the whole thing. It did not appear to be abuse to me, even in the clip used where the dog briefly went under. I am a big time dog lover, have had at least two for many years but I didn't abuse. Could it have been handled better? Probably but no abuse happened. I will go see the film!

  31. Anne N.

    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I'll be boycotting it at least until any investigation is complete. I couldn't enjoy the movie anyway with that image in my head.

  32. Vicki Lowers

    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Anyone genuinely concerned for the safety and welfare of any dog on set woukd and should have gone immediately to the proper authorities. Waiting fifteen months, until the release date was eminent, smacks of sensationalism and very probable, a profit motivation.. The TMZ connection pretty much puts the legitimacy of the video in question.
    As a dog lover, active member of the rescue community and grandmother, I will definitely see this film.

  33. Hope Muller

    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I worked in the entertainment industry for many years. I worked with analogue video, digital video, and film. I am now a dog trainer (much more rewarding). I have read so much about this video, and have sent emails to various organizations. IF the raw footage shows that the dog was NOT harmed, RELEASE the raw footage – with the embedded time code!
    We live in an age where words mean little – especially when there is verifiable proof SOMEWHERE!

  34. F Lubis

    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:49 am

    No, I would not watch it. Sorry, I have problem with animals on set, they don't decide to be on the spotlight, being on the film set is not their natural habitat. And as long as I can remember, German Sheperd is not a water dog like golden retriever, Italian/Portuguese/Spanish waterdog, etc.
    Too bad that this beautiful book has to be made into a movie, it should stay as a book. It is beautiful as it is.

  35. chris.s.

    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:46 am

    In a hyper-litigious society, things happen. I will gladly go see this movie.

    • mobiledeb

      Jan 26, 2017 at 11:02 am

      With you Chris!

    • Deb M.

      Jan 26, 2017 at 11:08 am

      With you Chris! If the releasers of this clip have proof of abuse on the set then bring it forth. I am glad it is being investigated as allegations need to be but jumping on an unproven bandwagon just doesn't cut it for me. As far as German Shepherd Dogs no liking the water F. Lubis I have had a few German Shepherd Dogs and they all LOVED the water. They canoed with me and after fishing would help tip the canoe and have some quality playtime (made me wonder why they hated the bath.

  36. Michele Small

    Jan 25, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I will go to see it. I think it was blown way out of proportion.
    I have been a dog lover my whole life. And I would not go see it if the dogs had been missing treated

    • Anna Van Z

      Jan 26, 2017 at 11:07 am

      How would YOU know?! You weren't there!

  37. Julie

    Jan 25, 2017 at 1:33 am

    Never believe what you read. It is never the whole story. I was always planning on going to the viewing.

  38. Colleen

    Jan 24, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I was looking forward to the movie but not sure now if I'll see it but the book is one of my favorites of all time. I am also confident that the author is an animal lover and would never consent to any mistreatment or animal cruelty on or off the set. He has written some wonderful books in addition to this one and you can tell he loves animals.

  39. sergio osollo

    Jan 24, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    I plan to see the movie at its' release. Why did it take fifteen months to SELL this video to TMZ. Are we cashing in on the films release just to play to animal lovers.

  40. Jay

    Jan 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I will see it pending the outcome of the investigation.

  41. eileen carter

    Jan 24, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    What a load of rubbish. The dog's actions says it all. Do you people think your sweet words fools the public? No I will not support anything where an animal has to be forced into action. Go get someone to push you off a cliff, see if you retaliate.

  42. JGreer

    Jan 24, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Does Mr Cameron receive any royalties from this movie? Does this have anything with him coming out and saying that everything is okay? Who benefits? I will not watch this movie. I was going to buy the book. But now I will not even do that.

  43. Jess

    Jan 24, 2017 at 9:17 am

    I plan to see it

  44. Barbara

    Jan 24, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Boycotting! We have always had German Shepherds & bred years back. Our gal Marta is our 7th! I know the face of a frightened GSD & Hercules sure looked that way to me. I had read about the book & was looking forward to taking my granddaughter who loves dogs & cats. But now I'd be a hypocrite to see this movie! When will the investigation be completed!?

  45. Wendy Morier

    Jan 23, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    I wasn't there to personally observe this action so I will NOT be boycotting the movie. I realize that MANY people and animals have worked very hard to get this movie made and I am sure that the dogs were well looked after and treated very well. The video in question was not easy to watch since we are all dog lovers and hate to see any animal mistreated. I support W. Bruce Cameron and all the actors and movie helpers and would hate to penalize them for the perceived lack of care of one person.

  46. Trina

    Jan 23, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    I just cant stand the idea of the dog dying and coming back over and over again

  47. Rob Stang

    Jan 23, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    I will see it !!

  48. Loulou

    Jan 23, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    I was so looking forward to watching this movie but no more. With ethe editing today and all the ways movies are manipulated, this did not need to happen. Will not send money to see a dog abused.

  49. Linda Porter

    Jan 23, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    If Mr Cameron has a copy of the video in its entirety, then he should release it so us dog lovers can also see what happened and make up our own minds. As of now, I won’t be seeing the movie.

    • JGreer

      Jan 24, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Agreed. Put it on YouTube and Leslie the facts for ourselves

    • Denise

      Jan 24, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      Agreed, good point!

  50. M a crocker

    Jan 23, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I anticipate seeing the movie several times w/a box of Kleenex and purchasing it when available

  51. Sherry

    Jan 23, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    I will be boycotting the movie. Say what you want, video’s don’t lie. Probably the reason it didn’t come out sooner is because no one expected someone to “uncover it” but it was found out anyway. The dog was terrified and did NOT want to get in the water, I don’t care what side of the pool it was. He went under, but just because a diver was there to get him didn’t make it any less scary for him! And even though he was running and playing later means nothing to me! Dogs are very forgiving that way! That’s the difference between dogs and people. Do the same to a person and you will have problems. Do it to a dog and they will love you anyway. It’s all about the money, isn’t it?!!!

  52. Lilia Loman

    Jan 23, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    I absolutely loved the book and was really looking forward to watching the film, but unfortunately the footage showing the poor dog being abused speaks more than 1,000 words and cannot be excused. It’s a big shame, but I cannot watch this film neither support and help enrich people who mistreat animals.

  53. Michael Hurtenbach

    Jan 23, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    I will be seeing this film. I am excited to see this film. I assumed there was some explanation. You should see the struggle when I bath my dogs. To think that the makers of a film about dogs would harm a dog is absurd. Joy to you all

  54. Linda W

    Jan 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    When I first saw the video I wasn’t going to see the movie but my friend said the author of the book loves animals and I trust her so I just change my mind and decided to go see it thank you For your explanation of events

  55. Staci grassel

    Jan 23, 2017 at 9:50 am

    I will be seeing it. I did not find the video to be abuse at all. There are far worse stories out there that are ACTUALLY animal abuse yet nobody seems to care about those stories. Nobody seems to care about fighting to get animal abuse laws changed from getting a slap on the hand for brutality beating a dog yet everyone is in an outrage about trying to put a dog in the water. I own a dog and am cery passionate about dogs and I will see this move

  56. mary jo ali

    Jan 23, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Yes, I can’t wait to see this movie. I also train my 2 dogs and understand some times when doing an exercise if anything is different from what and where they were trained to do it, they might act as if they don’t know or can seem fearful.

  57. Laura

    Jan 23, 2017 at 9:43 am

    I’m waiting to see the results from investigation. I won’t go to the theatre as I planned, but may perhaps view if the investigation shows that the clip was misleading.

  58. Cheri

    Jan 23, 2017 at 9:32 am

    I will definitely be seeing the film! Love the book, looking forward to the movie. With all the media hype around these days I tend to question much of what I see that sounds & looks bizarre.

  59. rieann

    Jan 23, 2017 at 9:00 am

    sorry but if the dog was in any way forced into the water and went under at any time scared this film and everyone with it should be accountable and the film should be boycotted

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