At first glance, A Dog’s Purpose looked like it would be a pretty standard feel-good story about the quasi-mystical healing power of pets. But due to some leaked footage that appeared to show a dog being forced into rushing water, any merits the movie might have had have been completely overshadowed by controversy. A few days ago, A Dog’s Purpose co-screenwriter (and author of the book it’s based on) W. Bruce Cameron chimed in to say that there was more to the story than what the video—which originated from TMZ—seemed to show.
Now, A Dog’s Purpose producer Gavin Polone has written an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter that lays out his reaction to the footage and what really happened on the day it was shot. Polone first presents his animal rights bona fides, explaining that he’s “a lover and defender of animals and their welfare” as well as a vegan who has set up his will so that all of his earthly possessions will be given to “charities benefiting animals” when he dies. So he felt particularly inspired to find out what happened when he saw the video, which he did by looking over all of the footage that was shot on the day this incident occurred.
Polone’s conclusion, essentially, is that the footage of the dog being forced into the water was “highly misleading.” He says the things seen in the video are “inexcusable” and “should never have happened,” but the video was cut together in a way that makes it all look worse than it was. As Cameron said a few days ago, the issue was that the dog was being asked to jump into the water from a different spot than they had rehearsed, which the dog didn’t like, so they simply moved back to the original spot. The bits in the leaked footage of the dog being swept under were from a different take, and by all accounts the animal was safe and happy after that happened.
Interestingly, Polone also calls out PETA “and its actions in all of this,” suggesting that it is “fomenting negative publicity” about A Dog’s Purpose in order to further its agenda of banning the use of all live animals in movies or TV. Polone even notes that the organization is using footage from the trailer of a computer-generated dog leaping into the water to make this all seem more dramatic than it is. Then, just to take an extra dig at PETA’s hypocrisy, he notes that it has protested cruelty to fake animals in video games, that it has suggested “dairy products cause autism,” and that PETA-owned animal shelters have significantly higher euthanasia rates than the average shelter.
Also, like Cameron, Polone suggests that the real impetus for releasing this footage now was to make money, not to actually protect any animals. That being said, he admits that it “does not excuse the mistakes” that were made.