A Dog's Purpose: Suffering for Your Entertainment

Still: Universal
Still: Universal

By all prerelease accounts (or, at least, the one from a friend of mine who saw an early screening), the upcoming movie A Dog’s Life is a bonafide tear-jerker. In that case, consider this upsetting footage TMZ obtained of a dog on set of the movie futilely trying to resist being submerged into moving water and then going under the least amusing amuse-bouche in the history of amuse-bouches:


TMZ reports:

Sources connected to production tell us 8 outboard motors were used to churn the water and recreate a rushing river. The dog eventually got in the water — or was forced in — but was quickly submerged.

It’s unclear if the dog going under was scripted, but someone immediately yelled, “Cut it!” ... and handlers rushed to the animal.

We’re told director Lasse Hallström was present the whole time, and at least one member of the crew was extremely disturbed by the dog’s treatment during this scene.


If you find this distressing, don’t even think about how common the discomfort of the animals you see onscreen and onstage is. (You should think about how common it is.)

Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures told TMZ: “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.”

Update: TMZ reports that the American Humane Association* representative who attended the filming above to enforce safety guidelines and make sure the animals weren’t harmed, has been suspended:

The AHA tells TMZ, “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.”


Note: An earlier version of this post stated that the “American Humane Society” was on set observing the filming. It was actually someone from the American Humane Association, not to be confused with the Humane Society of the United States. American Humane, per its website, “holds the exclusive right to award its ‘No Animals Were Harmed’® end-credit certification to productions that meet its rigorous standard of care for animal actors.”

Additionally, the Humane Society of the United States has provided this comment on the A Dog’s Purpose set incident:

The HSUS is disheartened by the footage released by TMZ showing a frightened German Shepherd being forced into a turbulent situation during the filming of A Dog’s Purpose. We are glad to hear that Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures will investigate the incident. For all of us who’ve been fortunate to experience friendships with dogs, what was shown in the video is certainly not a dog’s purpose.

We do want to clarify that The American Humane Association, which was on the set, is in no way affiliated with or connected to The Humane Society of the United States. American Humane has long promoted its “No Animals Were Harmed” program on movie sets, but we’ve sometimes been critical of its handling of allegations of cruelty and related issues. In this case, the AHA representative on the set did not speak up for the animal, and it is our understanding that the person has been suspended.

Some Pig. Terrific. Radiant. Humble.

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...aaaaanndd I won’t be seeing that.