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!



  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! ?

    • [email protected]

      Feb 14, 2017 at 2:30 am

      No I will not see it. Should not force the dog in the water.

  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.

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