(ANIMAL ACTORS/MOVIES) Just before the release of the highly anticipated film, A Dog’s Purpose, those involved in its production are coming forward about the recently leaked TMZ footage portraying the abusive treatment of a German Shepherd on set.

While some involved in the film are scrutinizing the actions seen in the video, others insist the footage was taken out of context and that the treatment of the dog wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

The bottom line is, in a time when a completely realistic CGI (computer-generated imagery) bear can ravage Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, there is no reason for using live animals in movies anymore.

Although the clips shown were of two separate shots of the dog–the first struggling to keep from being shoved in the water and the second of the dog being sucked under in the current–this “clarification” or saying it was “edited” changes nothing. The dog was obviously terrified in both separate clips and had to be rescued in the second.

The producer’s proclaimed love of animals doesn’t change this bad decision, and the only way to stop future bad decisions is to make this kind of animal abuse economically unfeasible. We stand with PETA’s boycott of this film, as should any true animal lover.

Technology, like in many other areas of life, has made this traumatic and dangerous work for animal actors unnecessary. This scene was a cost-based decision to use a live animal rather than CGI–another example of animal welfare taking a back seat to profit.

Just as the public is becoming aware of the truth behind animal exploitation in circuses, marine parks, and other forms of entertainment, we must also recognize the welfare of animals used in film.

Read on to learn more about the footage and how audiences are reacting. — Global Animal

Dennis Quaid in a scene from A Dog’s Purpose. Photo Credit: Joe Lederer/Universal Pictures

New York Times, Daniel Victor

The leaked video was discomforting enough to prompt calls for a boycott: A German shepherd, filming a scene for the coming movie “A Dog’s Purpose,” fought with a trainer to stay out of a pool he clearly didn’t want to go in, then later briefly sank as humans raced to lift him out of the water.

The human behavior in the video, obtained last week by TMZ, was roundly condemned. It was a crippling story for a movie about the love between humans and their pets; dog lovers said they’d skip the movie, and a premiere last week was canceled.

Now, just before the movie is to be released on Friday, several of the people involved in the film are offering more details about what happened in the leaked video. Some of them remain divided between condemning the actions seen in the video and insisting that the treatment of the dog wasn’t quite as bad as it might have looked. They say that the dog was never forced into the water, as the video seems to show, and that the two scenes were recorded at different times.

Dennis Quaid, one of the stars of the film, said on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Monday that “the video does not tell the entire story,” and that the animals “were treated with the greatest respect and care and compassion.” He added that he was not present when the scene was shot in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in October 2015.

“The dog was fine,” he said on NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday. “This was a piece of video that was shot during the making of this. Some unknown person at the time. He also spliced, edited and manipulated that to make it look as if the dog was being abused. The dog had been in that water happily, and even afterwards too.”

The German shepherd, a 2-year-old named Hercules, is now “happy and healthy,” Amblin Entertainment, the film’s producer, and Universal Pictures, its distributor, said in a joint statement last week. Hercules was supplied and trained by Birds and Animals Unlimited, a company that frequently works with the film industry.

Photo Credit: Universal

The American Humane Association, which monitors animals on movie sets and had a representative present during filming, said on Tuesday that the video was “misleading and edited.” Production was stopped after Hercules showed signs of stress, and he was not forced to swim, it said.

Several of the association’s findings were echoed by Gavin Polone, the film’s producer, in a column in The Hollywood Reporter, and by Birds and Animals Unlimited on its website. Mr. Polone said he was not present for the scene but had watched unedited footage of the day’s filming.

Mr. Polone, a vegan who said his will was set up to donate all of his money to animal charities when he dies, said Hercules was eager to swim during rehearsal, at one point “desperate to jump in.” The dog had to be held back by a trainer so he wouldn’t go in too soon, he said.

The footage seen in the TMZ video was taken after someone requested that Hercules jump in from the other side of the pool, according to both Mr. Polone and Birds and Animals Unlimited. At that point, the dog squirmed in the trainer’s arms and was visibly uncomfortable.

Birds and Animals Unlimited said that after “less than one minute,” Hercules was brought to the other end of the pool “from which he’d been conditioned to enter, and he did so happily.” Hercules had trained for months for the swimming scenes, the company said.

“He was chosen for the film based on his love of the water,” the company said.

In the second scene in the leaked video, the dog is seen submerging underwater. Birds and Animals Unlimited said “the current carried him closer to the wall at end of the pool than it had in previous takes.”

Mr. Polone said the dog was underwater for four seconds before a diver and handlers lifted him out of the pool. That scene was filmed after Hercules had willingly jumped in, though the footage might give the impression that he had been forced in earlier, Mr. Polone said.

Both of the episodes seen in the video remained “inexcusable,” Mr. Polone said. The trainer should have stopped trying to get Hercules to go in once the dog looked uncomfortable, and Hercules should never have gone underwater, the producer said.

“Seeing that distraught dog in the video did not comport with what I had observed in the prior weeks of production,” he said.

After Hercules went underwater, handlers put him in a warming tent and he did not show signs of stress, the American Humane Association said. The association requested a full veterinary checkup to ensure that the dog remained healthy, it said.

It remains to be seen what effect the defense will have on the box office numbers. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has maintained its call for a boycott of the film.

In emails to Mr. Polone, Lisa Lange, a senior vice president of PETA, suggested that he “pledge to never use live animals in films again.” A PETA spokeswoman said the organization believed that live animals should be removed entirely from movies and television.

Mr. Polone rejected the suggestion. He said Hollywood should focus on improving its protection of animals on set, and he criticized the American Humane Association’s ability to monitor animals on set.

“I say that we build a better method of protecting animals on sets through a better animal-protective service,” he wrote.

The A.H.A. said last week that it put its employee who was present during filming on administrative leave. A full investigation by an independent animal cruelty expert will be done by the end of the week, it said.

“We take extraordinary steps to ensure the safety of animals, starting long before a film starts shooting with a rigorous script review, detailed inspection of the sets and environment where animals will be, and on-set monitoring by trained certified animal safety representatives,” Mark Stubis, a spokesman, said in a statement.

More New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/arts/a-dogs-purpose-abuse-video-scandal.html