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Canada’s Chief Veterinary Office (CVO) is investigating circumstances around leaked video footage of alleged animal cruelty on the set of the A Dog’s Purpose movie shot in Winnipeg last December.
Video of Hercules, a German Shepherd appearing to be forced against his will into rushing waters for a scene in the film was leaked by TMZ this week after the animal rights advocate Animal Justice filed a cruelty complaint with the Winnipeg Humane Society, the provincial CVO and Winnipeg police “alleging violations of federal and provincial animal protection laws.”
A Chief Veterinary Office spokesperson said the department is “assigning an animal protection officer to evaluate the matter.” If any wrongdoing is found, the office could charge film crew with fines up to $10,000 and up to 6 months in jail.
Winnepeg Humane Society CEO Javier Schwersensky said in a statement, “this dog was fearful and not properly trained for this experience. As well, there was no safe exit point for the dog to escape the turbulent water.
“Training for a scene like this should take place weeks – if not months – in advance to help a dog get comfortable with not only being in water of that depth, but also the turbulence. It also helps to ensure the dog will not suffer consequences from such a traumatic experience,” he continued.
In the video below, obtained and released by TMZ, Hercules 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 American Humane Association, whose Humane Hollywood initiative places a safety representative on set to ensure that “No Animals Were Harmed” during filming, has launched a separate investigation and has suspended a safety representative who worked on the film.
Both Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures are reviewing the footage, but assert that great care was taken to ensure Hercules’ safety.