Leaked footage of 'animal abuse' on set sees family film caught in scandal

The video shows a German Shepherd filming a stunt scene during the making of 'A Dog's Purpose'

Leaked footage of 'animal abuse' on set sees family film caught in scandal

A still from Lasse Hallstrom's 'A Dog's Purpose' [YouTube]

The premiere of a new Hollywood family film about man’s best friend has been cancelled after footage of a dog handler forcing a frightened German Shepherd into a pool of rushing water was leaked online.

A Dog’s Purpose, the new film from Swedish director Lasse Hallstom, tells the story of a Golden Retriever dog whose soul is reincarnated again and again as a number of different breeds, becoming a companion to a new human owner each time, until eventually being reunited with his original owner.

But now a one-minute clip from the film’s set in November 2015, which shows a German Shepherd named Hercules being tossed into a large pool of churning water simulating an action scene from the movie. The footage has been widely criticised online as it shows the dog appearing distressed and struggling to escape before being lowered into the pool.

“Just gotta throw him in,” says a voice off-screen, as the dog tries to get out of the situation. “I don’t think he wants to go in. He wants to get away. Just throw him in,” the voice adds, laughing.

The footage in this video may be disturbing, viewer discretion is advised:

Since leaking online, the video has seen a furious reaction from the public, with PETA leading the charge and demanding a boycott of the film, slated for release in Ireland in April. American Human, the organisation that “works in association with the American film and TV industry to help ensure the well-being of animal actors and [...] is on the set to protect animal actors,” has launched an investigation.

Responding to the controversy, director Lasse Hallstrom, best known for Chocolat and The Cider House Rules, said on Twitter: “I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A Dog’s Purpose. I did not witness these actions.

“We were all committed to proving a loving and safe environment for all the animals in the film. I have been promised a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”

Actor Josh Gad, who voices the dog in the film, also commented on Twitter, saying that he considered A Dog’s Purpose “one of the most beautiful love letters to animals,” adding that he “was shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.”

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