The American Humane Association—the organization that monitors film sets for evidence of animals being mistreated, and which issues the famous “No animals were harmed” disclaimer to movies—has released the details of an independent, third-party report on a video that purported to show a German Shepherd being abused on the set of A Dog’s Purpose. According to the report, the footage—which shows the dog apparently scrabbling to stay out of a pool, and later sinking beneath its surface—was “deliberately edited for the purpose of misleading the public and stoking outrage. In fact, the two scenes shown in the edited video were filmed at different times.” The report also notes that multiple experts were on the scene to ensure safety protocols were being followed, that the dog in question, Hercules, “was selected for his love of the water, and had been professionally trained and conditioned for the water scenes over the course of six weeks,” and that filming was stopped on those occasions when signs of stress were noted. (The AHA report does lightly censure the film for not recognizing stress in the animal earlier, but otherwise affirms that all on-set procedures were followed.)
The report falls in line with claims from numerous people involved in the movie’s production who have seen the full footage of the day’s events. (Including star Dennis Quaid, who declared the video “a scam.”) Even so, the damage has presumably been done; Universal was forced to play defense from the moment the video was released, canceling the movie’s premiere and scuttling press events. According to Deadline, it’s not clear what effect the outcry had on the film’s box office receipts; it brought in $20 million in its opening weekend, which is considered pretty average for a ”dog movie” with no big, bankable stars.