Film Producer Speaks Out about Animal Cruelty on Set of A Dog’s Purpose and Where to Go from Here

Since the producer of the now-controversial film ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ is an animal lover, animal advocate and ethically-inspired vegan, we thought our visitors and readers would want to read his thoughts first-hand about what happened on the film’s set …


Gavin Polone on ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Outcry, What Really Happened and Who’s to Blame

Hollywood Reporter

The film’s producer explains the controversial video showing alleged on-set abuse, the precautions that were taken, the failure of a watchdog group, and PETA’s role in sensationalizing the scandal to serve its own cause.


Gavin Polone, Producer of A Dog’s Purpose :  “Like you, I’m sure, I was appalled when I saw the video, shot on the set of A Dog’s Purpose in Winnipeg in October 2015, of a dog trainer trying to coerce a frightened German Shepard into a pool. Unlike you, the terrible feeling engendered by that video was heightened for me because I am the producer of that film and because much of my identity is fused with the belief that I am a lover and defender of animals and their welfare.

I have participated in, helped pay for and written in this publication about animal welfare causes. My will is set up so that all I have shall be donated to charities benefiting animals when I die. I am a vegan who has fewer close friends than most and no relatives with whom I speak regularly. The most consistent and closest relationships I’ve had throughout my life have been with animals.

Love of animals defines my existence, and that love is what drove me to struggle for years to get Bruce Cameron’s brilliant and widely cherished novel about the bond between a person and a dog made into a movie. In part, my feelings about animals were formed as a child by films like Sounder and Born Free and TV shows like Lassie. I wanted to promote the feelings I developed for animals by making a meaningful movie about the same. So now, the idea that I’m connected to an accusation of the abuse of a dog is, to understate it, painful.

When the fog cleared from my brain, I knew I had to find out how this happened, who was responsible and what my part in all this may have been…”

We strongly encourage readers to click on the link and read his thoughts in their entirety. Click HERE to read more.   But for those unable to do so, we have excerpted some of his key summary remarks here:

Gavin Polone, Producer of A Dog’s Purpose : “Last Thursday, I went to Amblin’s office and watched all the film shot on the day in question, as well as saw video from the trainers and still photographs. As with the TMZ video that you saw, two things were evident: 1) the dog handler tries to force the dog, for 35 to 40 seconds, into the water when, clearly, he didn’t want to go in; and 2) in a separate take filmed sometime later, the dog did go into the water, on his own, and, at the end, his head is submerged for about 4 seconds. These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened. The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under. The American Humane Association (AHA) representative who is paid by the production to “ensure the safety and humane treatment of animal actors,” as its website states, should have also intervened immediately on both of those parts of the filming. So should have whomever was running the set. Those individuals should be held accountable and never used again by that studio or its affiliates.

I also hold myself accountable because, even though I was not present, I knew and had written about how ineffective AHA has been over the years. Its monitors have been present when bad things have happened to animals on sets, not offering enough protection to stop those events and displaying no real protest after they occurred. Though AHA is the standard guarantor of animal safety on all studio productions and I was not consulted when they nor the dog trainers were hired, I should have fought with the studio to come up with alternatives to serve those functions. I didn’t, and there is nothing to mitigate my inaction. I’m deeply sorry about that…”

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

The film’s producer closes with a powerful argument against boycotting the film–especially when it comes to children learning that animals are sentient beings.

Gavin Polone, Producer of A Dog’s Purpose : “This is a movie that is intended to reinforce the idea that animals are sentient and we should love and protect them, just like the movies and TV shows I saw as a kid made me understand. You probably have similar touchstones that relate to your feelings about animals, too. So, isn’t there worth in A Dog’s Purpose, and movies like it, from an animal welfare perspective?”


UPDATE:  Financial projections on the film:

Lasse Hallstrom’s A Dog’s Purpose is doing somewhat less business than expected at the Friday 1.27.2017 box office following the controversy over a leaked video showing a dog in distress on the set of the movie…

Dog’s Purpose is projected to gross $5 million-$6 million on Friday from 3,058 theaters, including $455,000 in Thursday night previews, for a debut of $17 million-$20 million. While a solid showing, pre-release tracking had suggested the family friendly film would earn north of $20 million (before the video, the estimates were as high as $24 million.)

Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media made Dog’s Purpose, with Universal handling distribution and marketing duties.