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Investigation finds A Dog's Purpose video 'mischaracterized what happened'

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Joe Lederer/Universal

The organization that ensures animal safety in movies has declared that a controversial video appearing to show a German shepherd being forced into churning water during the making of A Dog’s Purpose “mischaracterized the events on the set,” according to an independent third-party investigation.

In a news release issued Friday, American Humane said the report’s findings confirmed “that no animals were harmed in those scenes and numerous preventative safety measures were in place.”

The organization also impugned the motivation of whoever released the video, asserting, “The decisions by the individual or individuals who captured and deliberately edited the footage, and then waited longer than 15 months to release the manipulated video only days before the movie’s premiere, raise serious questions about their motives and ethics.”

The filmmakers behind A Dog’s Purpose came under criticism last month when TMZ published a video in which a dog named Hercules is seen clawing at a pool’s edge and trying to get away as a trainer attempts to force him into roiling water. Off-camera, a voice can be heard chuckling at the dog’s resistance and saying, “You just got to throw him in.”

PETA quickly called for a boycott of the film, and the premiere was canceled amid the controversy.

According to the investigation and eye-witness reports, however, the video “was deliberately edited for the purpose of misleading the public and stoking outrage. In fact, the two scenes shown in the edited video were filmed at different times.”

The news release maintains that “throughout its work on the set, the dog was treated with great care, attentiveness, and respect,” offering several examples. The release also notes that a veterinary checkup last week confirmed the dog is healthy.

Despite the negative publicity, A Dog’s Purpose opened to a solid $18.4 million last weekend and garnered an A grade in CinemaScore exit polls.