'A Dog's Purpose' Producer Calls Controversial Video 'Misleading'
Gavin Polone, a producer of film A Dog's Purpose and frequent contributor to The Hollywood Reporter, has come out with an article describing the set conditions surrounding what he is calling a "misleading" video of a German Shepherd being forced into a pool. A Dog's Purpose, based on the 2010 W. Bruce Cameron novel of the same name, is about a single dog who lives several lifetimes and meets several humans by being reincarnated into multiple dog bodies. The film's Los Angeles premiere and press junket were cancelled after TMZ released a video of a frightened German Shepherd named Hercules being forced into a pool with several motors that recreated the appearance of a turbulent river. PETA has since called for a boycott of the film.
Polone identifies himself as a vegan and animal lover who has already placed numerous animal welfare organizations in his will. "So now, the idea that I'm connected to an accusation of the abuse of a dog is, to understate it, painful," he wrote.
Polone said that he was on set for a majority of the filming and did not witness any animal cruelty or mistreatment during that time. He was not on set for the scene in question, but did watch all the film from that day after the video broke, and admitted that a handler did try to coax a reluctant Hercules into the water. Additionally, in a separate take, the dog's head was submerged beneath the water. These are the two clips that are edited together in the video TMZ released. Polone does not attempt to condone either:
These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened. The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under. The American Humane Association (AHA) representative who is paid by the production to “ensure the safety and humane treatment of animal actors,” as its website states, should have also intervened immediately on both of those parts of the filming. So should have whomever was running the set. Those individuals should be held accountable and never used again by that studio or its affiliates.
"I also hold myself accountable because, even though I was not present, I knew and had written about how ineffective AHA has been over the years," he added.
AHA has suspended the handler that was on set that day, pending investigation.
However, Polone also argues that the full day was not properly depicted. Many times, Hercules was eager to dive into the water and was at one point held back by the trainer, Polone claims. The pool was also heated, and contained platforms where the dog could stand above water. Hercules had completed the scene in rehearsals without issue. Polone said what made Hercules resistant during that particular take was that they had changed the position at which he was supposed to jump into the pool. When the crew returned to the original position, the scene was shot without incident. He also states that after the dog was submerged, he was pulled out by divers and handlers after about four seconds and was uninjured and in good spirits. Overall, Polone says only one full take was filmed that day.
In a clip from the film's trailer, a German Shepherd K-9 is seen leaping into rushing water to save a woman, but Polone says that some of that scene uses a CGI dog, contrary to what some animal activists are claiming. He argues that PETA's stance on animals in production is to never use them, which he believes will ultimately harm animal welfare as kids will not be exposed to compassionate portrayals of animals in media. PETA's senior vice president, Lisa Lange told Deadline, "With all we know about how they are kept in cages, the abuse that takes place during training and how they are treated on film sets, we believe that the animals should be CGI’d always." CGI animals would be costly, Polone argues, and a film that focuses so heavily on animals, such as A Dog's Purpose, would have a hard time getting made.
Polone also wonders why the person who took the cell phone video of the incident was heard laughing at the dog's plight while recording the video, but then turned it over to media over a year after it had been shot. TMZ has since posted a video of Hercules playing with a ball, in which the dog seems healthy and happy.