‘A Dog’s Purpose’ premiere cancelled amid animal abuse allegations

The weekend premiere for A Dog’s Purpose was cancelled after a leaked video allegedly depicted animal abuse on set.

CBS News reported Amblin Entertainment, who produced the film, made the cancellation announcement Thursday night. The video supposedly showed a trainer pushing a reluctant German Shepherd in rushing water.

TMZ, who broke the story, claimed director Lasse Hallström was present while the scene was filmed. Hallström took to Twitter to deny this allegation and disavow the “disturbing” recording.

A Dog’s Purpose has received a hailstorm of criticism from animal advocacy groups. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) vice president Lisa Lange urged moviegoers “to boycott the film in order to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props,” according to a statement obtained by USA Today.

The Hollywood Reporter claimed PETA also called for Hallstrom and producer Gavin Polone to pledge to never use animals in movies again, in addition to rescuing dogs from Birds & Animals Unlimited, the company who provided the canines used in A Dog’s Purpose.

The American Humane Society, the organization that supervises on-set animal filming, “reviewed the video and we are disturbed and concerned by the footage. When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped,” according to a statement.

“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,” they added.

Polone told The Hollywood Reporter while computer-generated imagery (CGI) should be prioritized, demands posed by PETA are unreasonable because it’s not always a cost-effective option. “It’s naïve and untenable and will never happen — we all know that,” he said.

The producer opined, “What’s needed is a replacement for the [American Humane Association]. There’s a person there all the time and clearly they are ineffective. That’s the issue and that’s what needs to be corrected.”

Amblin Partners and Universal Studios also released a statement, which reads:

“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.”