“It takes a cold heart not to find this footage disturbing, so PETA asks whether A Dog’s Purpose was written from the heart or just to make a buck,” a statement from the animal rights organization began. “Whistleblowers invariably fear for their jobs, but this footage was bravely made public after PETA exposed cruelty to animals at the film’s reported dog supplier.”
A backlash swiftly ensued after TMZ published a disturbing video taken of A Dog’s Purpose, seeming to show the abuse of a German shepherd named Hercules by an animal handler while filming a water scene.
Although Cameron conceded “mistakes were made” during production of the movie, he said in a statement, “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.” He initially called the video “shocking,” but added, “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?”
“If additional footage exists,” PETA’s statement continued, “it should be made public, but it won’t change the footage of a terrified dog forced into churning water any more than nanny cam footage of a bedtime story changes footage of a caregiver hitting a child.”
Earlier this week, PETA called for a boycott of the film, which is set to open on Jan. 27, over the video. Director Lasse Hallstrom has since responded to the situation, tweeting, “I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”
Josh Gad, who voices the film’s titular dog, wrote in a statement, “I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.”
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment jointly decided to cancel the film’s premiere in light of the controversy.