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'A Dog's Purpose' under fire after footage of apparent animal cruelty surfaces

By
Wade Sheridan
A Dog's Purpose star Josh Gad, seen here at the 5th biennial Stand Up To Cancer fundraising event on September 9, has spoken out against the leaked behind-the-scenes footage of the film calling it disturbing. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
"A Dog's Purpose" star Josh Gad, seen here at the 5th biennial Stand Up To Cancer fundraising event on September 9, has spoken out against the leaked behind-the-scenes footage of the film calling it "disturbing." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Upcoming film A Dog's Purpose is facing major backlash from PETA and star Josh Gad as footage featuring a dog being forced into a stunt has leaked.

The behind-the-scenes clip, released by TMZ Wednesday, features German Shepherd Hercules unwilling to jump into a pool of rushing water for an action scene before he is forced in by a trainer.

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"He wants to get away, just throw him in," an off-camera voice is heard saying in the video.

"PETA is calling on dog lovers to boycott the film in order to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props," the animal rights organization said in a statement.

Gad who voices one of the canine characters in the film, commented on the video on Twitter in a lengthy post where he sided with PETA.

"I signed on to a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen. Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German Shepard being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film," the actor wrote.

"While I do not know all the details and cannot speak to the level of care and caution that went into this moment (as I was never on set for the making of this film), I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will."

"As the proud owner of a rescued dog and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation for these disturbing images," he concluded.

Studios Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures acknowledged they had seen the video and said in a statement, "Fostering a safe environment and ensuring the ethical treatment of our animal actors was of the utmost importance to those involved in making this film and we will look into the circumstances surrounding this video."

While speaking with CNN, Amblin noted in a follow-up statement that the production team "followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals."

"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," they said.

The studio also mentioned how the production did not proceed with the filming of the scene seen in the video and that "Hercules is happy and healthy."

Despite reports from TMZ that director Lasse Hallstrom was present during the video, the filmmaker distanced himself from the tape writing on Twitter, "I did not witness these actions. We were all committed to providing a loving and safe environment for all animals in the film."

A Dog's Purpose, based on the book by W. Bruce Cameron, follows the story of a dog named Bailey who discovers the meaning of life over five decades as different dogs with different owners. The film is due in theaters Jan. 27.

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