Wherever animals in the world of man are concerned, more often than not the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) would have something to say. They’ve been a thorn on the side of the entertainment industry for decades, calling for the complete phase-out of any animals appearing in films and television programming, whether they were wild creatures that simply wandered in front of a camera or worse, performing animals that are made to act prominently on scenes at the behest of trainers and such. The latest feature-length production to meet their militant might is the Amblin Entertainment movieA Dog’s Life”, through the release of film footage alleging that some animal abuse went on in the set during filming.

Pushing a reluctant animal actor

The film, based on a 2010 novel by humorist W. Bruce Cameron, chronicles the life of a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who goes through several lives and several cycles of reincarnation as different dog breeds, all in a search for what his true purpose as a dog in the world is. While originally eagerly anticipated, a snippet of video that found its way online cast some doubt on the humane treatment of the dog performers used for the film. The footage shows a German shepherd dog named Hercules, poised at the edge of a wooden platform and being coaxed to jump into the pool below, of which the waters have been briskly stirred to turbulence. Close inspection shows Hercules hesitating to follow the script and his trainer’s command to jump into the pool, to the point that the animal was forced into the brisk waters to submerge.

With pressure from actor Gad himself, Amblin sought to undertake an investigation, but now PETA has caught wind of the hubbub and raised the expected furor.

Movie boycott

As soon as word of the leaked footage came out, the American Humane Association called into account their representative assigned to oversee the filming with the performing dogs, and issued a suspension while they get to the bottom of things.

But PETA went one better and began calls for a public boycott of “A Dog’s Purpose, leading Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures on Thursday January 19 to cancel plans for an advance premiere night and press day supposed to be scheduled for Monday January 23, citing the production company’s ongoing investigation on the video’s veracity.

This move was welcomed by PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange but has also been used as another springboard to push for the permanent banning of animals in movies, as in Lang’s words Hollywood is no place for them. Barring a complete pullout, "A Dog's Purpose" opens in cinemas January 27.

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