The group responsible for ensuring animal safety on movie sets has suspended a staff monitor after video emerged Wednesday of a German shepherd being forced into churning water for the upcoming film A Dog's Purpose.
The footage, which was reportedly filmed in a pool outside Winnipeg, Canada, in November 2015, was published by TMZ on Wednesday and shows the dog struggling to avoid going into the water.
"Don’t worry, it’s warm water at least," a man can be heard saying on the video. "He ain't gonna calm down 'till he goes in the water. Just gotta throw him in.
"He wants to get away, just throw him in."
Moments after the German shepherd — for a scene in which it jumps in to save a kidnapped girl from drowning — is in the water, it appears to go under, prompting someone to yell "Cut it! Cut it!" as handlers rush in to retrieve the dog.
The American Humane Association (AHA), which enforces safety guidelines for animals during filming, told BuzzFeed News in a statement that it was "disturbed and concerned" by the footage.
"When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped," the AHA said. "We are placing the safety representative who was on the set on administrative leave immediately and are bringing in an independent third party to conduct an investigation into this matter."
Gavin Polone, the film’s producer, said he was “horrified” when he saw the video.
“My first thought was, 'Is this dog OK…and why did AHA not step in and stop it?'” he said.
Polone said he believes there needs to be a better organization in place to supervise animals during filming. However, Polone, an animal activist himself, added that he “never saw anything that put an animal in stress during the 70% of the time” he was on set.
The studio behind A Dog's Purpose, which is set to open Jan. 27, did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment. But Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures told TMZ they were investigating the matter:
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.
Lasse Hallström, the film’s director, said he was "very disturbed" when he saw this video. He also said he is a "lifelong animal lover," did not witness this treatment of the German Shepherd and is committed to providing a "respectful and safe environment for all the animals in the film." Hallström said he has been promised a through investigation and that any wrongdoers will be punished. Josh Gad, who voices the dog in the film, also shared his thoughts about the “disturbing” video on Twitter. “I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will."
On Thursday, the ongoing investigation prompted Amblin and Universal to cancel the film's Los Angeles premiere as well as a press event where the film's dogs would be available for photographs.
"Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.
Since the emergence of the footage, Amblin has engaged with many associated with the production of the film, including safety personnel, trainers and stunt coordinators as part of their in-depth review. While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress, everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking.
We continue to support this film, are incredibly proud of it and will release it for audiences nationwide next Friday."