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.”
Peruse 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)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 23rd, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: a dogs purpose, amblin entertainment, american humane association, animals, animals in movies, book, churning, context, controversy, cruelty, director, dogs, encouraged, entertainment, fear, forced, fright, german shepherd, handlers, hercules, industry, judgment, lasse hallstrom, leaked, movie, opinions, peta, pets, pool, responsibility, stress, tmz, trainers, treatment, video, w. bruce cameron
Amid the bashing she’s taking on the Internet for picking her dog up by the tail, there are those coming to the defense of Rebecca Cross, owner of Knopa, the Scottish terrier who won Best in Show at Crufts.
But the explanations those defenders offer, and their justifications for the practice — which has existed for years — are disingenuous, misleading and often a little arrogant.
The only time, in our opinion, that a dog should be picked up by his or her tail is … NEVER!
There may be those in the dog show community, and in the worlds of hunters and breeders, who say that view is naive — that certain breeds can handle it. Then again, they have never been picked up by their tails.
Let’s look at their arguments.
1. The tails of some dog breeds are meant to serve that function. They are born with sturdier tails to provide us humans with handles so we can pull them out when they go into holes. Baloney. Clearly, neither God nor evolution put tails on animals to serve as handles for humans. And if breeders have worked to give certain breeds stronger tails, with that in mind, then they had the wrong thing in mind, which is often the case. Their tinkering with dog breeds to make them cuter, lower maintenance or more useful to humans — all in the name of sales, of course — leads to no good, and to bogus arguments like this one.
2. You shouldn’t do it, but, being highly skilled professionals, it’s OK for us to lift certain small breeds by their tails. Balderdash! Running around in a circle with a dog, and brushing its hair, doesn’t make you a highly skilled professional. Showing a dog doesn’t require a PhD. You’re not a doctor, and if you were you’d know that, the tail being an extension of the spine, it should not be used to hold up even part of a dog’s weight.
3. When a dog is picked up that way, most of the pressure is on the front end of the dog, and the tail is simply used as a guide. Bullshit — pardon our language — but anyone with the slightest understanding of physics can see that, when a dog is picked up this way, the tail is carrying at least some of the dog’s weight. And when the front end is being supported by a hand on his or her throat, rather than his or her chest, that too is problematic.
4. If it hurt them, dogs would yelp and whine. Wrong again! That’s not true of real world dogs, or show dogs — maybe especially show dogs who have accepted the fact that the human showing them is going to do this, just as they have accepted the judges who insist on grasping their packages to check for “conformity.”
5. We’ve always done it that way. We all know that is no defense at all; rather, it’s an excuse used by those who — even when someone is showing them a better way — stubbornly insist on living in the past. And if ever there was a vestige of the past, it’s purebred dog shows.
Those defending the practice offer plenty of what they, at least, see as justification, but little explanation of the reason for picking up a dog this way in the first place.
In that way, the tail lift symbolizes what, at the root, is wrong with dog shows.
And that’s the “appearance above all” mentality behind them.
Judging dogs on their looks — as called for by breed organizations and breed standards — causes suffering and is not in the best interest of the species.
Shows like Crufts and Westminster value “looks over the welfare and health of dogs which can lead to their early death, and that’s not acceptable if we’re really a nation of dog lovers,” RSPCA spokesperson Violet Owens told the BBC.
Although the dog owner’s comments didn’t sound too apologetic — she said she lifted her dog by the tail due to force of habit — Cross did apologize, according to UK Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko.
And just for the record Kisko also said that — no matter what the breed — picking up a dog by its tail is a no-no, at least at Crufts:
“Those showing at Crufts receive clear written guidance on handling their dog, in order to ensure the dog’s welfare, and this guidance makes it clear that dogs should not be handled in this way,” she said.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 13th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breeds, crufts, dog, dog shows, dogs, handlers, handling, health, improper, judges, kennel club, knopa, pets, picked up, proper, purebreds, rebecca cross, rspca, safety, tail, westminster