In the video, a German Shepherd named Hercules is seemingly forced into a pool of rough water by a trainer before being submerged and pulled out by another handler. The clip sparked outrage as many wondered what actually happened to the animal actors behind the scenes of the Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures film.
Now, the company that provided the trainers for the movie, Birds and Animals Unlimited, have released a lengthy statement to The Huffington Post, detailing what really went down in the leaked video. The trainers claim that TMZ “falsely edited” the video and that the dog was not harmed in any way. “Hercules, a two-year-old German Shepherd, had been in training for months to perform the swimming scenes for this film,” the statement reads. “He was chosen for the film based on his love of the water.”
Read the full statement below:
Last week a falsely edited video was released to the media. It portrayed a dog being forced to enter a pool against its will and suggested that the dog was traumatized as a result. No such thing occurred, nor would it ever occur under the supervision of our animal trainers.
In one sequence, the videotape shows our animal actor Hercules appearing resistant to being placed in the pool. A voice can be heard saying “Just gotta throw him in.” Next, Hercules can be seen in the water, the false implications being that Hercules was actually placed in the water against his will and that the voice that can be heard belongs to someone supervising Hercules.
Here is what actually occurred:
Hercules, a two-year old German Shepherd, had been in training for months to perform the swimming scenes for this film. He was chosen for the film based on his love of the water.
The shot that Hercules performed began with his jumping from the end of the pool into the water as he’d been conditioned to do, then swimming out to a stunt actor and pulling her to safety.
After many successful takes throughout the day, a request was made to have Hercules perform the same behavior, but changing the point from which he was to enter the pool. As the camera started rolling, the trainer in the water began to call the dog. It quickly became apparent that Hercules did not want to enter the pool from this location.
After less that one minute of Hercules insisting on getting back to his original starting point, this plan was abandoned and he was brought to the end of the pool from which he’d been conditioned to enter, and he did so happily.
We cannot identify the voice that appears on the videotape saying “Just gotta throw him in,” but there were many people on the film set and it was not anyone with any authority over Hercules’ welfare as some of the news coverage implied.
In the next shot, Hercules entered the pool from his rehearsed location.
While swimming across the pool, the current carried him closer to the wall at end of the pool than it had in previous takes. When the dog reached the wall, he was briefly submerged at which point the diver and trainer immediately pushed him to the surface. Trainers poolside then pulled him out of the water. Hercules shook the water off and wagged his tail.
During the filming, an American Humane Representative was present at all times, approving and documenting every shot. Whenever Hercules was in the water there were two trainers poolside, one trainer in the water, a safety diver, as well as stunt personnel.
The day before the scene was filmed, Hercules and his trainers did a comprehensive rehearsal at the pool location with safety and stunt teams to make certain that safety measures were in place to insure that the dog was not put in any danger.
These safety measures that were put in place worked flawlessly to ensure that no harm came to the dog (or the people) who were in the water during filming that day.
Birds and Animals Unlimited is currently reviewing available footage of these scenes and is evaluating its legal options. In the meantime, we strongly encourage the news media that receive such disturbing, defamatory and maliciously edited videotapes to exercise caution in their broadcast and characterization.
The movie’s producer, Gavin Polone, also spoke out about the clip on Monday, writing in The Hollywood Reporter that the scenarios filmed were “INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened.”
Polone believes the trainer, the American Humane Association representative and the individuals running the set that day should be held accountable for what happened. He also holds himself accountable, explaining that he could have done more to ensure all the animals were safe and comfortable.
“Though AHA is the standard guarantor of animal safety on all studio productions and I was not consulted when they nor the dog trainers were hired, I should have fought with the studio to come up with alternatives to serve those functions. I didn’t, and there is nothing to mitigate my inaction. I’m deeply sorry about that,” Polone wrote.
Polone does agree that the video originally posted by TMZ appears to be edited and is “highly misleading.” He also thinks PETA amplified the problem by sharing TMZ’s post on their website and calling for a boycott of the film.
“That PETA has an impossible agenda and that someone probably tried to make money by making my film look bad, does not excuse the mistakes made 15 months ago, irrespective of the fact that the dog in question was unharmed,” Polone wrote, concluding:
Wouldn’t it be better to fix the problems that led to this unfortunate and anomalous event and ignore the manipulated media and half-truths disseminated by those with either financial or extremist agendas? I swear to you, whether I make another dime on this movie or not has no effect on my life. But if studios stop backing films like “A Dog’s Purpose” because they fear being attacked by groups like PETA, and kids who are now the age I was when I formed my understanding that animals are deserving of love and protection can’t see those movies, it will absolutely have a negative effect on animal welfare in the future.
The premiere of “A Dog’s Purpose” was canceled over the weekend following the outcry, but the film ― based on the 2010 novel of the same name ― is still set to hit theaters nationwide on Jan. 27. It tells the story of a devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) discovering the meaning of its own existence through the lives of the humans it teaches to laugh and love.