The filmmakers behind A Dog’s Purpose have pledged to investigate a recently surfaced video showing a trainer apparently forcing a German shepherd into turbulent waters on set, while also stressing their commitment to providing a safe environment for the animals in the movie.
Director Lasse Hallstrom acknowledged Wednesday in a series of tweets that he was “very disturbed by the video” and added, “I did not witness these actions. We were all committed to providing a loving and safe environment for all the animals in the film. … I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”
Producer Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures also issued a joint statement that said the production team “followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals.”
They added, “While we continue to review the circumstances shown in the edited footage, Amblin is confident that great care and concern was shown for the German shepherd Hercules, as well as for all of the other dogs featured throughout the production of the film.”
Josh Gad, who provides the voice of the dog and was never on set, expressed his concern over the footage in a tweet Wednesday. “I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will,” he said in part, adding he has also asked the production team and studio “for an explanation for these disturbing images.”
The filmmakers came under fire Wednesday after TMZ published a video in which Hercules is seen clawing at a pool’s edge and trying to run away as a trainer attempts to force him into the churning water.
Off-camera, a voice can be heard laughing at the dog’s resistance and saying, “You just got to throw him in.”
Per the statement from Amblin and Universal, “There wwere several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts. On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot.”
The statement noted that Hercules “is happy and healthy.”
Set for release Jan. 27, A Dog’s Purpose tells the story of a pooch who searches for meaning over the course of several lifetimes and owners.