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Tag: american humane association

Hercules and the heart of the matter

hercules

As I suspected when the story broke, video of a frightened dog being … let’s say, strongly encouraged, to get into a pool during the filming of a “A Dog’s Purpose” has led to an explosive response from dog lovers on the Internet.

What I didn’t suspect was so many saying we should withhold judgment.

Here’s an example from my own Facebook page — a comment in response to either my ohmidog! post, or a previous comment from a reader who had decided not to see the movie. It urges viewers of the video not to “rush to crucifixion”:

“I also know that there are HOURS of footage to the contrary which this was conveniently edited from, and calculatedly released just prior to the film’s premiere. A PETA plant, I believe. I also personally know several people behind this film. I know how shocked, appalled, stunned, mortified they were. I know they immediately sought answers, spent all of yesterday viewing all TRUE, raw film from this exact scene shoot as well as several prior rehearsals … Closed minds, open mouths, soapboxes, rushing to judgment, social media & MEDIA are DANGEROUS TO GOOD PEOPLE.”

dogspurposePeruse social media and you’ll find, for every 10 people expressing outrage, at least one saying the video was edited (as it clearly was), that there’s a conspiracy afoot (as is likely) and that we shouldn’t have an opinion about what we see on the video until we see it “in context.”

Guess what? I don’t, in this case, need context. Show me hours of footage of Hercules, the German shepherd, being pampered by his handlers and it won’t make a whit of difference.

Even the author of the best-selling book the movie is based on, while admitting mistakes were made, is spinning things as positively as possible.

“…When I was on set, the ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs,” W. Bruce Cameron wrote on his Facebook page. “I have since viewed footage taken of the day in question, when I wasn’t there, and it paints an entirely different picture.”

“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,” he added.

Again, it’s the argument that the dog was mostly treated right. That’s good to know, but not the least bit relevant.

The 45 seconds showing the handler nudge, push and lower the dog in the water against his will make it clear he was frightened, resistant and stressed — and that should have been enough to call off the stunt, at the outset.

That eventually they maybe did, for that day, or for that dog, doesn’t change the 45 seconds.

The producer, the director, and one of the stars have all said they found the video disturbing. The American Humane Association agrees, and they’ve placed the representative they assigned to monitor the movie on leave.

And yet the apologists — motivated maybe by their love of the book, or by their hate for PETA, or by their ties to industries that exploit dogs — keep saying it is too early to say anything bad occurred.

That said, what the video shows is only borderline abuse, if it’s abuse at all. Hercules was not physically harmed. In the history of animals in the entertainment industry, far worse things have happened, which is why this IS a story and why vigilance and monitoring are necessary in movie productions involving live animals.

Pursuing criminal charges, or a boycott of the movie (as PETA is calling for), may be over-reactions. I won’t say what the video shows meets the legal definition for animal cruelty.

But stating this is not proper treatment for an animal in a movie? I have no qualms with doing that. And I have no problem pointing out perfectly realistic results could have been achieved with computer graphics.

After Hercules went in and out of the churning water — outboard motors were used to create the effect of river rapids — the video cuts to another scene showing a German shepherd in the water, and going under it, for long enough that someone on the set shouted “cut it” and handlers rushed to his aid.

Some reports suggest that part of the video was taken on a different day, and could have even involved a different dog.

That second part of the video, I’d agree, though it does seem to convey a little bit of alarm on the set, is so short and blurry that it does require some context.

But pointing out flaws in the video, or the questionable motivations of those who provided it to TMZ (probably for a fee), does nothing to excuse the behavior on set — or the movie maker’s bottom line responsibility for it.

Cut through the haze of Internet hubbhub, sparring, intrigue, and guesswork and what we can see in the first part of the video — in or out of context — is enough to remind us that animals in the entertainment industry need to be protected, and that they should never be forced to pursue stunts against their will.

That, I suggest, should be step one in sorting through this episode — seeing the underlying concern, not obfuscating it — whether you were a party to it, or just watching from the outside.

Step two? The movie’s makers need to accept responsibility, and none seem to have gotten anywhere close to doing that.

Instead, they almost all seem to be saying “I was disturbed by video. I didn’t see it when it happened. I wasn’t there. Mistakes were made. I would have stopped it. Why was the video just now leaked?”

Movie fans, dog lovers, and most of all Hercules, deserve something better than that.

(Photo: Amblin Entertainment)

“A Dog’s Purpose” cancels premiere after video shows dog mistreated

dogspurpose

Universal Pictures has canceled a premiere and press junket scheduled for “A Dog’s Purpose” amid a growing furor over a video that shows one of its canine stars being mistreated during filming.

Distributor Universal and production company Amblin Entertainment announced late Thursday that the premiere and a Monday press day were being scrapped. The movie’s opening remains scheduled for Jan. 27.

“Because Amblin’s review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog’s Purpose to cancel this weekend’s premiere and press junket,” a joint release stated. “Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.”

Meanwhile, PETA has called for a boycott of the movie, actor Josh Gad has asked for an explanation, and the the American Humane Association has launched an independent investigation into why its safety representative overlooked an apparent case of cruelty during the movie’s filming.

For a scene in the movie, based on the popular book of the same name, a frightened German shepherd was forced into a churning pool of water and, at one point, sunk beneath the surface.

The video, shot in 2015, was released by TMZ — the week before the film’s opening — after the program received it from undisclosed sources.

“American Humane has reviewed the video and we are disturbed and concerned by the footage,” the AHA told PEOPLE in a statement. “When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped.”

harmedThe AHA monitors the safety of animals used in the entertainment industry and bestows the “No animals were harmed” label on the finished products — as it did in this case.

The AHA has suspended the safety representative who worked on the film, and has asked an outside party to conduct an investigation into the slip-up, said Mark Stubis, a spokesman for the organization.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement calling on dog lovers to boycott the film “in order to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props.”

“Sadly, such abuse appears to be the norm, not the exception, in the entertainment industry,” PETA said.

PETA reported on its website that the company that supplied the dogs in the film, Birds & Animals Unlimited, has a problematic record. PETA said it has filed previous complaints about the company with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

gadOne of the movie’s stars, Josh Gad, who provides the voice of the dog in the movie and never appeared on set, said the video left him “shaken.”

“I signed on for a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen. Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German shepherd being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film … I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.

“As a proud dog owner and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation,” he added.

In a joint statement, production company Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures assured that Hercules, the dog in the video, was unharmed and is “happy and healthy.”

They said the movie’s crew “followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals,” but added they are looking into the situation.

Director Lasse Hallström, a three-time Oscar nominee, said he didn’t witness the scene recorded on video — even though TMZ initially reported he was on the set the day the scene was shot in Canada in 2015.

“I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”

harrison

The movie, based on the best selling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, tells the story of a golden retriever passing away, being reincarnated as a German shepherd, corgi and then a St. Bernard. In his last incarnation he is reunited with his original owner.

The one-minute video clip shows the shepherd being coaxed, then shoved into the pool. Later it shows the dog sinking under the water, at which point someone yells “cut it,” and trainers rush to the dog’s aid.

That the video was leaked the week before the much-publicized movie’s release, as opposed to shortly after it was recorded, indicates someone was waiting until it reached peak market value.

TMZ hasn’t said whether they purchased the video, or how much they paid for it.

Harley dishonored? You won’t be seeing this

harley

Allegations of wide-scale voter fraud may not effect the presidential race, but they have kept a one-eyed Chihuahua from appearing on the tail of Frontier Airlines jets.

The Denver-based airline announced Monday that it has suspended its “Mascot on the Tail” contest because it had been “compromised” by fraudulent voting.

“We have determined that the contest has been compromised by fraudulent activity and ineligible voting that has created an unfair environment for all participants,” the airline said in a statement. “We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.”

The contest, launched in March, invited universities, high schools and other organizations to campaign and vote for their mascot to appear on the tail of some Frontier planes.

Given that getting themselves free publicity (and gathering as many email addresses as possible) were the real reasons for Frontier to hold the contest, and given online contests aren’t exactly the epitome of the one-person-one-vote ideal, the airline’s explanation came across as a little hollow, and a little suspect.

Especially to those supporting Harley, a one-eyed Chihuahua who was the mascot of National Mill Dog Rescue.

Harley3Harley, a puppy mill survivor and the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog for 2015, was among the top vote-getters in the contest (voting was scheduled to end April 30) when it was abruptly called off.

“Once entered, Harley quickly gained tremendous support thanks to you – his fans – and he also gained the support of several news stations, animal welfare organizations and even celebrities,” a statement on on Harley’s Facebook page says.

“Over the course of a week Harley reached over 37,000 votes and was in first place. He was well ahead of all other contestants…It soon became clear that Harley had an excellent chance of winning the contest. Then, suddenly, Frontier Airlines suspended the contest. Their explanation was that there was voter fraud and they blamed international voters.”

Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner said the airline did not suspend the voting due to the possibility of Harley winning, the Denver Post reported.

Instead, the contest was halted due to “several” instances of fraud, including cases of ineligible, non-U.S. residents voting, he said.

Faulkner did not pinpoint any particular contestant that was benefiting from “fraudulent” voting.

The airline plans to send $20 travel vouchers to everyone who voted in the online contest as “a token of good will,” he added.

Harley’s supporters freely admit to campaigning heavily for their candidate. They saw it as a way to educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills and honor the memory of Harley, who passed away last month at the age of 15.

Creating a social media buzz, and spreading the word about the contest served them well, and served Frontier Airlines well.

harley2So is there some other reason — other than wanting to be certain their online voting process was pristine and ethical — behind Frontier’s decision to terminate the contest?

We’d hate to think politics were involved, or that some airline big wig thought the image of a one-eyed dog might besmirch their shiny jets.

Other mascots competing in the contest included Colorado State University’s Cam the Ram; University of Colorado’s Ralphie the bison; University of Florida’s Albert and Alberta Gator; and the University of California Santa Cruz mascot, Sammy the Slug.

Harley, a little dog who came to represent perseverance and resiliency, was the only contestant with a message — and maybe that frightened the airline. Maybe they were afraid of losing any unethical breeders they had as passengers.

Michele Burchfield, marketing director for the National Mill Dog Rescue, said Harley’s high number of votes were the result of his message and an active social media and e-mail campaign that caught on with puppy mill opponents across the country.

“If Frontier opens up the contest again, we would be thrilled to enter him again and honored to have him on the tail of a plane knowing that our voting is legitimate and honest,” Burchfield said. “We did everything we could to bring this honor to him.”

“This little guy could get a million votes in a month if he needed it,” she said.

Getting the monkeys off their backs

The popular Banana Derby race at the Lake County Fair in Illinois — in which monkeys ride on the backs of dogs — will go on this year, but at least one member of the county board hopes to have it banned in the future.

Board member Sandra Hart, among others, is concerned over the welfare of the monkeys involved in the race, the Daily Herald reports.

In a letter to Lake County Fair officials, Hart said the derby “does not speak to the values of our county.”

Hart is also supporting a petition to stop the event.

Chicago-area zoos and other animal advocacy groups also favor banning the event, which has been a popular attraction at the Lake County Fair for more than five years.

Harmless and funny as it all seems, it’s another example of exploiting animals — both the dogs and the monkeys — for cheap laughs, all under the assumption that, since the animals aren’t balking, they must be enjoying it.

We humans have no right to make that assumption — much less cash in on it.

County Fair President Jon Brodzik Jr. doesn’t see it that way.

“While we recognize and appreciate there is a wide range of opinions on the role of working animals in entertainment, the board of directors of the Lake County Fair Association sees no compelling reason to cancel the Banana Derby attraction at this time,” Brodzik wrote in response to Hart.

“The humane care and handling of performing and exhibition animals is a responsibility we take seriously, which is why animal performance vendors at the Lake County Fair are vetted very carefully.”

The show is put on by Gilligan T. Monkey LLC, which is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The promoter of the show, Philip Dolci, told CBS that he treats the animals with nothing but love and that the people of Lake County would be devastated if it wasn’t part of the fair.”

“… I mean, how would you abuse that animal, you know what I’m saying? We cook for them, we clean for them, my mom and wife make clothes for them. If I was doing something wrong, the people of Lake County wouldn’t have brought their kids back for six years to see us. They say, ‘We see the monkey every year.’ They know the monkey’s name. It’s insanity, really.”

Dolci says the performers are rescued animals who travel and perform about six months of the year, then live with his family as pets.

The Humane Society of the United States and the American Humane Association also opposed to the event.

The Lake County Fair will be held July 29 through Aug. 2.

Susie named 2014’s “American Hero Dog”

susie

Susie, the abused North Carolina dog who inspired a law, a movie, and a nonprofit organization, has been named the American Humane Association’s 2014 American Hero Dog.

Susie, found with burns over most of her body in 2009, received a standing ovation at the AHA‘s black-tie awards gala Saturday night in Beverly Hills, where she was one of eight finalists competing for the prize.

“I’m just blown away,” Donna Lawrence told TODAY.com after learning her dog had won. “There were so many amazing dogs with great stories. When they called Susie, I just wanted to cry.”

In 2009, Susie was found with severe second and third-degree burns over most of her body in Greenfield Park in south Greensboro. Her ears were burned off and she had a broken jaw and teeth. She was taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter and eventually nursed back to health.

She was adopted by Donna and Roy Lawrence — just 10 months after Donna was attacked while trying to help a neglected pit bull that had spent much of its life tied to a tree in her neighbor’s yard in High Point, North Carolina.

When the man who was convicted of setting Susie on fire was sentenced to probation, outraged dog lovers launched a campaign for tougher penalties for animal cruelty and abuse.

“Susie’s Law,” which made animal cruelty a felony in North Carolina, went into effect in 2010, signed by then-governor Bev Perdue.

Donna Lawrence went on to establish Susie’s Hope, a nonprofit organization that fosters awareness of animal abuse. In 2013, the story was made into a movie, also called “Susie’s Hope.”

Susie is now a certified therapy dog and visits schools, hospitals and churches to bring messages of kindness, respect and responsibility to children and adults.

Other finalists in the Hero Dog Awards, included:

Bretagne, one of the last known surviving search dogs who worked at Ground Zero in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Kai, an arson dog who has worked more than 200 fire investigations in San Antonio

JJ, a little dog with a powerful nose that can detect when his human, ther  a girl named KK Krawczyk, is about to have a life-threatening reaction due to a rare illness

Kota, a law-enforcement K9 who sustained multiple fractures while responding to a burglary in progress but who kept trying to help his police officer partner apprehend a suspect

Xena the Warrior Puppy, a dog rescued from extreme abuse who went on to help a little boy with autism in profound ways

Chaney, a military dog who served multiple tours sniffing out explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan

Xxon, a guide dog who helped an Air Force sergeant continue to serve active duty and regain independence after being blinded by explosives in Afghanistan.

The Hallmark Channel will air the awards show on Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. (Eastern Time).

(Photo: American Humane Association)

Pit bull wins national “hero dog” award

elle

Elle, a 5-year-old pit bull who helps children become more confident about reading, has been named the 2103 Hero Dog by the American Humane Association.

But it wasn’t just her listening skills that won her the honor. She also helps teach children about dog safety, and overcoming prejudice and stereotypes – “something a pit bull knows too much about,” the association noted in announcing the award.

The therapy dog and her owner started a reading program called “Tail Wagging Tales”  that helps students at two North Carolina schools — Vaughan Elementary in Macon and Chaloner Middle School in Roanoke Rapids — become stronger readers. Students take turns reading out loud to Elle for 20 minutes.

“She provides confidence for students and a comforting ear,” Leah Brewer, 42, told TODAY.com.

Elle and the other finalists for the American Humane Association award attended a ceremony Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It will air as a 90-minute special on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 30.

After a six-month natonwide search, 141 dogs from across the country were nominated. More than one million Americans cast votes for the eight finalists online. Those results, along with the choices of a panel of celebrity judges and animals activists, were combined to determine the winner.

Among other nominees were Carlos, an explosive detector dog who worked in Iraq and Afghanistan; John D, a rescue dog who uses his scenting capabilities to detect cancer in patients; Cassidy, a three-legged dog who visits rehabilitation centers to comfort children with disabilities; and Lola, a rescued guide dog who connects her deaf owner to the surrounding world.

“Choosing a top dog is difficult because they are all so terrific, but we are proud to announce Elle as the top American Hero Dog for 2013,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association.

“As an organization that for years has fought breed-specific legislation (BSL), we are also pleased to honor a breed that has been often been unjustly maligned. We hope that Elle’s story will help to underscore the many tremendously positive qualities of this breed.”

(Photo: American Humane Association)

The shocking truth about elephant star

Movie star electric shocked from Animal Defenders on Vimeo.

Tai, the 42-year-old Asian elephant who stars in the new movie “Water for Elephants” may not have been harmed in the making of that particular film — but he learned the tricks he does in it by being repeatedly shocked with electricity, an animal welfare organization says.

Animal Defenders International said a six-year-old video of Tai being trained has been posted on the Internet, shows trainers administering electric shocks as they teach him tricks.

“Water for Elephants,” a romantic drama set in a 1930s-era American circus, stars Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. It is premiering this month.

Tai, supplied by Have Trunk Will Travel of California, plays the role of Rosie, an elephant who is brutally attacked with a bull hook by by the circus owner.

The American Humane Association monitored production of the movie — and it, as well as the producers, stars, and trainers have said Tai was treated with nothing but kindness during the movie’s making.

A representative of the American Humane Association stated during the making of the movie, “all these animals have been treated fairly and humanely throughout the entire course of their training.”

Gary Johnson, a founder of Have Trunk Will Travel claimed: “Tai was never hit in any way at all,” according to ADI.

ADI, however, says video filmed at Have Trunk Will Travel in 2005 clearly shows Tai being shocked as part of his training.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “We were uncomfortable with the message of this film, but the more we saw the repeated assertions that this elephant has been treated with love and affection and never been abused, we realized that we had to get the truth out. The public, the stars and the filmmakers have been duped. This poor elephant was trained to do the very tricks you see in the film by being given electric shocks.”

ADI said it was sending copies of the video to the film’s stars and makers.

“I believe that Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson will be horrified to learn what Tai went through,” Creamer said.

ADI has also contacted American Humane Association, urging them to re-evaluate how they assess the use of animals in films. ADI is also calling for a boycott of the film.