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PETA Blasts ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Writer, Who Responded to Outrage by Saying ‘No Animals Were Harmed’

Variety logo Variety 1/21/2017 Dave McNary
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PETA won’t lets W. Bruce Cameron — author of the book “A Dog’s Purpose” and co-screenwriter of the controversial film — off the hook after he asserted that no dogs were harmed during the shoot.

Cameron, in a statement issued Friday, said the commentary accompanying TMZ’s leaked video of a German Shepard had mischaracterized the incident. He also questioned the motives of those who shot and edited the video for waiting 15 months to do anything about it, instead of immediately going to the authorities.

“A Dog’s Purpose” opens Jan. 27. PETA called for a boycott on Wednesday, resulting in Universal and Amblin Entertainment calling off the movie’s Jan. 21 premiere. On Saturday, the group issued a blistering attack on Cameron.

“It takes a cold heart not to find this footage disturbing, so PETA asks whether ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ was written from the heart or just to make a buck,” said PETA VP Lisa Lange. “Whistleblowers invariably fear for their jobs, but this footage was bravely made public after PETA exposed cruelty to animals at the film’s reported dog supplier. If additional footage exists, it should be made public, but it won’t change the footage of a terrified dog forced into churning water any more than nanny cam footage of a bedtime story changes footage of a caregiver hitting a child.”

In the original post that sparked controversy, TMZ released the video with a story that began, “One of the dogs in the upcoming film “A Dog’s Purpose” desperately resisted shooting a risky scene, but chilling footage shows filmmakers apparently forcing the animal into rushing water.”

Cameron said the dog, named Hercules, balked at doing the stunt because of the location.

“The written commentary accompanying the edited video mischaracterizes what happened. The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water — I’ve seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool. When he was asked to perform the stunt from the other side of the pool, which was not how he had been doing it all day, he balked. The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay — the water wasn’t his issue, it was the location that was the issue, and the dog happily did the stunt when he was allowed to return to his original spot.”

“I also didn’t like it when Hercules’s head briefly went under water, but there was a scuba diver and a trainer in the pool to protect him. He loves the water, wasn’t in danger, and wasn’t upset,” he added. “On a movie where the mantra was the safety and comfort of the dogs, mistakes were made, and everything needs to be done to make sure those errors are not repeated. But the reason American Humane certifies that no animals were harmed during the making of the film is that no animals were harmed during the making of the film.”

“I celebrate animal rescue and am proud of the values that show up in ‘A Dog’s Purpose.’”

Universal released a statement on Thursday saying that Amblin was still reviewing the edited video and said it has been assured that Hercules was not harmed. “A Dog’s Purpose” is directed by Lasse Hallstrom and based on Cameron’s 2010 novel about a canine who is reincarnated into several dogs over the course of multiple lifetimes. Dennis Quaid and Britt Robertson star while Josh Gad voices the dog.

Hallstrom and Gad have released statements expressing distress over the video.

An online petition, launched Friday, called for a boycott of the movie unless a “significant” portion of the proceeds are donated to animal welfare organizations. The petition had generated more than 42,000 signatures as of noon PST on Saturday.

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