The team behind A Dog's Purpose is definitely trying to save face ahead of its Friday release date.
As you've probably seen by now, footage showing an animal trainer shoving a visibly frightened German Shepherd into turbulent water on set has been made public by TMZ. In addition, PETA has since called for a boycott on the movie.
While Ellen DeGeneres has since spoken out with the film's star Dennis Quaid to defend the movie, so has the A Dog's Purpose's producer.
"Like you, I'm sure, I was appalled when I saw the video, shot on the set of ADog'sPurpose in Winnipeg in October 2015, of a dog trainer trying to coerce a frightened German Shepard into a pool. Unlike you, the terrible feeling engendered by that video was heightened for me because I am the producer of that film and because much of my identity is fused with the belief that I am a lover and defender of animals and their welfare. I have participated in, helped pay for and written in this publication about animal welfare causes. My will is set up so that all I have shall be donated to charities benefiting animals when I die."
But even before touching on the alleged abuse that went down on set, the Hollywood producer confessed:
"Though I was in Los Angeles when the scene in question was shot, I was on the set of the film for about 70 percent of the 11-week production and witnessed the animal trainers, from a company called Birds and Animals Unlimited, handling the animals daily. Not once did I perceive any animal caused any discomfort or put in danger — and I am very aware what a distressed dog or cat is like… Seeing that distraught dog in the video did not comport with what I had observed in the prior weeks of production."
He's an animal lover, in case you didn't get it.
What's most important though is what Polone had to say about what the footage of the distressed pup showed:
"As with the TMZ video that you saw, two things were evident: 1) the dog handler tries to force the dog, for 35 to 40 seconds, into the water when, clearly, he didn't want to go in; and 2) in a separate take filmed sometime later, the dog did go into the water, on his own, and, at the end, his head is submerged for about 4 seconds. These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened. The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under."
Unsurprisingly, the producer also put blame on the American Humane Association (AHA):
"The American Humane Association (AHA) representative who is paid by the production to "ensure the safety and humane treatment of animal actors," as its website states, should have also intervened immediately on both of those parts of the filming. So should have whomever was running the set. Those individuals should be held accountable and never used again by that studio or its affiliates."
Besides also calling out PETA, he tried to explain how the short clip TMZ shared didn't reveal everything that went down in the rehearsal video:
"TMZ's edited version gives the impression that the dog was thrown in and eventually drowned, since the two parts seem to be connected. You never see him pulled out and OK. This is highly misleading."
And finally, Gavin made one last plea to get people to see the controversial movie:
"I say that we build a better method of protecting animals on sets through a better animal protective service. PETA says the film should be boycotted and no dogs ever be used in movies or TV. I would ask that if a teacher were to hit a student in class, should the whole school be closed and all the children left without an education? This is a movie that is intended to reinforce the idea that animals are sentient and we should love and protect them, just like the movies and TV shows I saw as a kid made me understand. You probably have similar touchstones that relate to your feelings about animals, too. So, isn't there worth in ADog'sPurpose, and movies like it, from an animal welfare perspective? Wouldn't it be better to fix the problems that led to this unfortunate and anomalous event and ignore the manipulated media and half-truths disseminated by those with either financial or extremist agendas?"
Sigh. Wouldn't it be more effective to share the entire rehearsal clip if the edited version is so "misleading"?
While his pain seems genuine, only the weekend's box office sales will prove if his words hit home.