Just over a week before the film’s release, “A Dog’s Purpose” has been cursed after TMZ leaked a video of a German shepherd allegedly being abused.
The video has made a lasting impact, many people are now refusing to see the film and both director Lasse Hallstrom and Josh Gad, who voices the titular dog, have condemned the footage. The film’s premiere was cancelled and it has received a myriad of one-star ratings on IMDb, pushing the film into the website’s lowest-rated films list. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called for a boycott of the film.
“A Dog’s Purpose,” however is far from the first film to use animals, so what went wrong and how do the films typically ensure that animals are being treated properly? Currently there are no federal or state laws specifically geared towards protecting animals in the entertainment industry. Two federal acts, the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act have limited, indirect applications to animal actors.
Instead, Hollywood relies on the regulation of Animal Humane Association (AHA) for all Screen Actors Guild films. According to their website, the AHA “monitors over 1,000 productions per year, helping ensure the safety and humane treatment of animal actors.” An AHA representative was on set during filming and has been suspended by the organization pending an independent investigation.
Along with bringing a representative on set, the AHA has released a set of guidelines to ensure the safety of animals. The guidelines outline the role of the AHA, dictates that animals may not be harmed, killed or even given anesthesia for the sake of the film, and provides a checklist for pre-production and principal photography. Even non-fiction, historic footage of an animal being harmed cannot be used as it is deemed to be “exploitation of the animal’s suffering for the sake of entertainment.
If the production of the film lives up to the AHA’s standards, the AHA certifies this by allowing the film to add “No Animals Were Harmed” during the credits. The AHA also releases ratings on animal treatment on their sister website, HumaneHollwood.org. Currently, there is no final review on “A Dog’s Purpose.”
Despite needing approval from the AHA to use their famous line in the credits, some films have attempted to circumvent this, slapping on the line without AHA approval during the release of the film. When this happens, the AHA sends a cease-and-desist letter that demands the unauthorized disclaimers be removed from the theatrical or home video release. If a studio refuses to comply, the AHA lists the films on their website.
The certification ratings are listed as:
Monitored: Outstanding: Safety Representatives were on set to ensure the safety of the animals throughout production. After screening the finished product and cross-checking all animal action, we determined the film met or exceeded our Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media and is awarded the end credit disclaimer “No Animals Were Harmed.”
Monitored: Acceptable: Safety Representatives were not able to monitor every scene in which animals appeared. However, American Humane Association oversaw significant animal action filmed in compliance with our Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media. After screening the finished product and cross-checking all animal action supervised during production, we acknowledge that the filmmakers have cooperated fully with our process.
Monitored: Special Circumstances: Production followed American Humane Association’s Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media and cooperated with the protective measures enforced by our Certified Animal Safety Representative, an accident, injury or death involving an animal occurred during the course of filming. A full investigation revealed that the incident was not a result of negligence or malice on the part of the production or animal suppliers.
Monitored: Unacceptable: Production failed to adhere to our Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media or disregarded animal safety leading to improper animal safety and directly caused the injury or death of an animal.
Not Monitored: Production Compliant: Safety Representatives were unable to directly supervise the animal action due to limited resources and/or scheduling conflicts. The production complied with all registration requirements, however, submitting a shooting script and relevant animal scheduling information, and provided a pre-release screening of the film as requested by American Humane Association.
Not Monitored: The production did not seek monitoring oversight from American Humane Association’s Safety Representatives during filming. We cannot attest to the treatment of the animal actors or know whether our Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media were followed.