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Tag: cruelty

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.

A dog’s purpose? It’s not this

A German shepherd was forced against his will into a churning pool of water and disappeared underneath it during the filming of “A Dog’s Purpose.”

Footage leaked to TMZ shows the German shepherd resisting efforts by a trainer to get him into a pool of water.

Once in the pool — whether it was by choice or force — the dog can be seen sinking under the water, which was being churned by eight outboard motors.

An alarmed voice yells “cut” and the dog is pulled out of the pool.

The footage — depending on how dog lovers react and how viral it goes — is likely to damage how well the movie fares at the box office after its release this month.

At the very least, it may earn its makers reputations as hypocrites, given the film’s dog-loving, feel-good message.

As of yesterday, there had been no reaction to the video from major animal welfare organizations, including the American Humane Association, which monitors productions and bestows the “No animals were harmed …” tag on the finished product.

The movie is based on the 2010 novel, “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron, currently No. 1 on USA Today’s best-selling books list.

In the film, a dog’s story is told from the perspective of a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of life through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.

The German shepherd was one of at least five dogs used in the film, TMZ reported. The movie’s director, Lasse Hallstrom, was present during filming of the scene, TMZ said.

In the scene, a police dog rescues a young girl who has fallen into a rushing river.

The footage at the pool was shot outside of Winnipeg, Canada, in November 2015.

It shows a handler pushing an obviously frightened German shepherd into the churning pool of water. The dog manages to claw his way out. Later, the dog is seen back in the pool and, at one point, going under.

After a few seconds, someone yells, “Cut it!” and handlers rush to help the dog.

Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures say they have seen the video and are investigating.

“Fostering a safe environment and ensuring the ethical treatment of our animal actors was of the utmost importance to those involved in making this film and we will look into the circumstances surrounding this video,” they said in a joint statement.

The movie debuts on Jan. 27. It stars Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton.

According to USA Today, the book “A Dog’s Purpose” has sold 2.5 million copies. It is the first publication about a dog to top the chart since “Marley & Me,” which was also adapted into a film, in 2006.

New York to look at regulating dog trainers

nydogworks

Spurred on by a viral video of a Long Island dog trainer viciously poking a crated pit bull with a broomstick, two New York legislators are calling for state regulation of dog trainers.

On Monday, Sen. Todd Kaminsky, Assemblywoman-elect Missy Miller and members of the Nassau County SPCA proposed a law that will require a license for dog obedience trainers.

The proposed legislation was announced at the home of Tommy Marrone, the Oceanside man who posted the video online.

(The video was removed from YouTube yesterday for violating its policy against “violent or graphic content.”)

“I am horrified by the animal abuse that has taken place in our backyard,” Kaminsky said. “… What happened in Oceanside can happen anywhere, and it is our job to protect consumers and their dogs from devious and abusive practices.

“When consumers send their pets to training school, they have no assurance of the trainer’s credentials or professional experience – and that’s simply unacceptable,” he added. “By creating streamlined licensing practices for dog obedience trainers, we are protecting our four-legged family members who cannot speak and shield themselves from abuse.”

The proposed legislation will deny licensing to any individual convicted of animal abuse and allows for enforcement of violations by police officers and professionals who specialize in detecting animal abuse, such as the SPCA.

“I treat my pets as members of my family. We simply cannot allow another animal to be abused and have a duty to protect innocent consumers,” said Assemblywoman-elect Miller, who intends to sponsor this legislation in the Assembly.

The call for regulation is in response to the furor created by the video of a man abusing a pit bull, according to LongIsland.com.

The man in the video is reported to be Brian De Martino, the owner of NY Dogworks. DeMartino runs the business out of his home.

The video was recorded by De Martino’s girlfriend, and was originally made public by Marrone, a former NY Dogworks customer.

“My dog was beat worse than that dog,” Marrone told PIX11 News. Marrone said that he’d posted the video online in an attempt to warn others.

On Monday afternoon, Nassau County police and building inspectors visited DeMartino’s home — just hours after DeMartino appeared in court on charges of assaulting the woman who recorded the video.

PIX11 News reports that De Martino is being investigated for illegal use of his home, operating without a permit, and possible animal abuse charges.

Man who drowned dog is ordered to keep pup’s photo in his wallet for two years

burrowA North Carolina judge imposed a lenient but lingering sentence on a Fort Bragg soldier who intentionally drowned his 8-month-old puppy.

Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons handed John Burrow a sentence of 30 days in jail and 100 hours of community service, cleaning the cages at Cumberland County Animal Control.

A light sentence — but one with a twist:

Ammons also ordered Burrow to keep a photo of the eight-month-old pup in his wallet for the next two years, while serving his probation, according to WTVD.

Police said Burrow, a paratrooper, used parachute cords to tie the legs of the pup, named Riley, and looped the rope around his muzzle before throwing him into MacFadyen Pond around Thanksgiving in 2014.

The dog’s body washed ashore on Jan. 2, 2015.

Yesterday’s sentencing followed a guilty plea by Burrow.

Investigators said Burrow told them the mixed lab-shepherd pup had run away from home several times, and he and his wife could not afford the veterinarian bill after the dog was hurt during a previous escape.

rileyBurrow and his wife, Kelsey, initially claimed the dog had run away when they were questioned by police after his body was discovered.

Kelsey Burrow told Cumberland County sheriff’s investigators then that Riley had stood on a privacy fence and opened the latch on the gate.

Investigators said she put false posts on Facebook saying Riley was suffering from organ failure, and told a friend in a Facebook message that the dog died while undergoing surgery.

Kelsey Burrow has been charged as an accomplice and is still awaiting sentencing.

In court Tuesday, John Burrow, 24, apologized, the Fayetteville Observer reported.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “so very sorry, and sorry to Riley. I did love Riley. I did love that dog. I have no excuse.”

As part of the plea arrangement, Burrow agreed not to own another animal during his probation period.

(Photos: WTVD and the Fayetteville Observer)

Garmin takes heat for dog-zapping device

Garmin, a company that makes devices that tell us how to get from here to there, has unveiled its latest gadget aimed at “teaching” your dog good behavior — by shocking him when he misbehaves.

The Delta Smart is a small, smartphone-compatible gadget that fits over a dog’s collar, enabling an owner, through an app, to keep track of their dog’s activity levels, and how much barking they are doing while we’re away.

It’s not the first Garmin product for dogs, and not the first to include a shock feature — but it is the first to spark such widespread protest and an online petition asking the company to remove the feature.

The product promises to “reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors” and make your dog a “more enjoyable member of the family.”

It gives dogs warnings by beeping, vibrating or by applying what the company likes to call “static” or “stimulation” — which is a nice way of saying a jolt of electricity.

deltasmartThere are 10 levels at which a dog can be zapped, either by an owner who is present, or remotely.

As the petition points out, it’s not the right way to train a dog:

“For example, a woman wants her dog Bowser to learn to not jump on the couch. Bowser trots into the family room, jumps up on the couch, and climbs into her daughter’s lap — at which point the electric shock hits him. She has now put her child in serious danger.

“Bowser will not associate the act of jumping up on the couch with the pain; he will associate her child with the pain and could very well become aggressive toward her.”

Like all the makers of shock collars, Garmin says the jolt does not hurt the dog.

“What is missing from this argument is the fact that aversive methods only work if they scare and/or hurt the dog. If the zap doesn’t bother the dog, then the dog will not learn. Electric shock collars do hurt and scare dogs. If they didn’t, no one would use them,” says the author of the petition, dog trainer and freelance writer Tracy Krulik.

barklimiter

Garmin’s Bark Limiter

We haven’t seen the CEO of the company try one out (but then again maybe he or she hasn’t misbehaved). To the company’s credit the new device has put some cushioning over the two metal probes that, in earlier versions, stuck into the dog’s neck.

The Delta Smart is basically a combination of a FitBit-like device and the company’s “Bark Limiter,” which has been on the market for a while.

In the ad above, various dogs are shown, each labeled for the kind of bad behavior they engaged in — barking too much at the mailman, shredding the blinds, stealing food off the kitchen counter, knocking over the trash can, chewing up the slippers.

The “dog activity trainer and remote monitor” can correct all those problems — even when you’re not home, the ad says.

It can monitor barking and activity levels while you’re away, and it comes with tags that can be placed on items and in areas you don’t want the dog near that activate warning tones when the dog approaches.

In other words, it is a control freak’s dream — and it’s only $150.

After the video was posted on Facebook, it had nearly 2,800 comments, most of them condemning the product as cruel, and the wrong way to train a dog, according to the Washington Post

On YouTube, the company has disabled public comments on the video — and if you try to leave one, you receive an electrical shock. (OK, we made that last part up.)

You’ve got to wonder, though, technology being what it is, if the day will come when we get shocked for making wrong turns or for not taking enough steps during the day, for failing to do our sit ups or eat our vegetables — and if someday, by a family vote, we can equip a bratty nephew or an annoying uncle with such a device.

For his own good, of course, and just to make him a “more enjoyable member of the family.”

Woman’s complaint leads to policy change

An animal control officer in Durham declined to free a dog from a hot parked car for about two hours Saturday, despite the pleas of the woman who reported the situation.

As temperatures inside the car climbed to 117 degrees, Jennifer Miller urged the officer to take action, angrily posted pictures on her Facebook page, and pushed ice cubes through the cracked window of the car to the panting pit bull inside.

Miller, of Danville, Virginia, had called animal control Saturday afternoon after seeing the dog in the car, parked at The Streets of Southpoint Mall.

The officer who arrived checked the car, stuck a probe inside to take the temperature, but declined to take any action to remove the dog.

Instead, Miller said, he sat in his air conditioned vehicle and waited for the owners to return.

Miller, who serves on the board of a wildlife rehab center and volunteers with a humane society, said the dog, about six months old, was showing signs of heat stroke, but the animal control officer seemed unswayed by her opinion.

“He (the dog) was panting. His gums had actually already started to turn white,” she said. “It looked like he was kind of foaming at the mouth, that really thick saliva. And he was unsteady.”

The owners of the car, which had Maryland license plates, finally showed up about 4 p.m. The officer filed no charges, but told them to take the dog to a vet to be checked out.

Miller wasn’t satisfied with that ending. She continued to complain about how the incident was handled — and it paid off.

On Monday evening, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office announced a change in policy concerning animals left in vehicles.

Officers will no longer have to wait for animals to show signs of distress.

Under the revised policy, deputies will document the interior and exterior temperatures of a vehicle at least twice, and the deputy will use his or her discretion in determining whether the animal should be removed from the vehicle.

The new policy also allows deputies to decide whether to return the pet to its owner or pursue criminal charges after taking the animal to the local shelter.

“The Durham County Sheriff’s Office appreciates and listens to feedback from concerned citizens,” said the statement from the sheriff’s office statement.

Miller, despite winning a victory of sorts, sounds like she continues to be disturbed by it all.

“It is very clear that they could have charged this person. They did not have to wait two hours to get the dog out,” Miller told ABC11. “But the officers were not listening. They were very rude and belligerent. And it was very sad the dog suffered for two hours at least.”