An independent investigation carried out by the American Humane Society has found that the controversial footage leaked from the set of A Dog's Purpose was "deliberately edited" and "that no animals were harmed in those scenes and numerous preventative safety measures were in place.”
On January 18, TMZ released footage of a German Shepherd named Hercules resisting entering turbulent waters on set of the film, quickly submerging before handlers rushed to retrieve the dog. PETA stoked the public outcry, calling to boycott the film, alleging animal abuse.
"The investigation and eyewitness reports affirmed that throughout its work on the set, the dog was treated with great care, attentiveness and respect," American Humane said in its official statement. "The video was deliberately edited for the purpose of misleading the public and stoking outrage. In fact, the two scenes shown in the edited video were filmed at different times.”
Birds & Animals Unlimited, the training and handling facility that provided the canines such as Hercules, offered Oz Magazine the following statement in response to the allegations for the initial article:
"This video distorts the extensive safety measures put in place by both the production company and our experienced trainers during filming of the scene in question. BAU trainers spent months preparing the animal actor, Hercules, for the shoot and had every confidence in his ability to safely perform the stunt, as he had done on previous occasions. Safety protocol was strictly followed before, during and after filming of the scene, and Hercules continues to enjoy an active lifestyle both in and out of the water. BAU trainers have several decades of experience, affording them extensive knowledge and skill working with animal actors in a safe manner in the motion picture industry. BAU trainers have a personal commitment to the safety and wellbeing of their animal actor partners which is fostered by the loving relationships they build with each animal. We understand the public concern and we are confident that further examination will demonstrate our unwavering commitment to the stewardship of the animals in our care."
During the initial publicity, producer Gavin Polone said Hercules was "desperate" to jump into the water and had to be restrained by his trainer from going in before the scene was shot.
"The dog did the scene in rehearsal without problem, though it was from the left side of the pool, not the right side, which is where the dog is in the TMZ video. Also, in the rehearsal footage, it’s clear that there is a safety diver and a trainer in the pool to protect the dog in case of a problem, as well as two trainers, a stunt coordinator and a safety officer on the deck and that there are platforms built into the pool where the dog can swim to and stand, if need be," he wrote, adding that the water was 80 to 85 degrees. "Before the first real take, the handlers were asked to change the start point of the dog from the left side, where he had rehearsed, to the right side. That, evidentially [sic], is what caused him to be spooked."
As of February 5, 2017, A Dog's Purpose has grossed $32.9 million in the United States and Canada and $9.6 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $42.5 million, against a production budget of $22 million.