Confirming that old bit of showbiz wisdom that says people really don’t like it when you terrorize a cute dog, there’s now an online petition encouraging moviegoers to boycott Universal’s A Dog’s Purpose unless its director makes a public mea culpa by donating to animal welfare organizations. The movie provoked controversy this week after TMZ leaked footage of one of its animal actors, a German Shepherd named Hercules, being reportedly forced into rapidly moving water against his will.
And while we’d normally eye an internet petition with 15,000 clicks to its name as having all the impact of a squeaky rubber ball bouncing harmlessly off a wall, there does seem to be a backlash brewing against the film. Director Lasse Hallström and star Josh Gad (neither of whom were on the set the day the footage in question was shot in Winnipeg) have both expressed dismay at what’s on the video, and Universal has canceled the movie’s premiere this weekend to avoid controversy and awkward questions.
Universal and Amblin Entertainment, as well as the Canadian Chief Veterinary Office and the American Humane Association (whose on-set rep for the scene has reportedly been suspended), are currently investigating the tape, which has a notable cut between the dog’s efforts to avoid going into the water, and footage that seems to show it swimming and then sinking underneath. Universal has assured audiences that Hercules is fine and unharmed, but it remains to be seen how the controversy will affect the film’s box office performance with the dog lovers it was presumably designed to attract.