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'A Dog's Purpose' Trainers Vid Makes Us Look Bad But Hercules Was NOT Harmed

1/23/2017 5:44 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

0123-dogs-purpose-letter-launch-main-TMZ-01Birds & Animals Unlimited -- the group responsible for training the dogs in "A Dog's Purpose" -- insists Hercules the German Shepherd wasn't forced to perform a stunt, and claims the video doesn't tell the full story.

In a letter to TMZ, the org admits Hercules was resistant to entering the pool from a new location, but they cut right away, and went back to the original spot where he'd trained for the scene ... and he jumped in, happily.

Birds & Animals claims the dog was not thrown in from the spot where he resisted, but feels the "falsely edited video" implied that. TMZ did not edit the video. We posted all the footage as obtained.

The letter also addresses the voice in the video saying, "Just gotta throw him in."

'A Dog's Purpose' Producer Says Mistakes Were Made But PETA is Being Dishonest

1/23/2017 2:37 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

"A Dog's Purpose" executive producer Gavin Polone makes no bones about it ... the video posted by TMZ showing a distressed German Shepherd shows mistakes were made on the set, but he insists the animals featured in the movie were well cared for and protected.

Polone strongly believes PETA is smearing the movie by trying to mislead the public into believing the dog and other animals were put in harm's way.

And Polone has harsh words for the American Humane Association, which he says should have stopped the action when the Shepherd made it clear he did not want in the water.

'A Dog's Purpose' PETA Shipping Protest Flyers To Anyone Willing to Picket

1/23/2017 1:09 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

0123-dogs-purpose-flier-launch-01PETA's first official protest poster against "A Dog's Purpose" barks out its mission statement ... "For Dog's Sake, Don't See This Movie."

We got our hands on the literature PETA just created for its planned nationwide picketing of theaters where the movie will play, starting Friday. Sources close to the org tell TMZ they'll be sending out as many boxes of the flyers as needed, to anyone who wants to help spread the word ... free of charge.

We're told more than 1,000 people in at least 25 cities have already requested the posters, which include a discussion about the video TMZ posted, showing Hercules, the German Shepherd, distressed while filming a scene.

The filmmakers have told TMZ ... this one video clip doesn't represent their treatment of animals on the set, and ultimately Hercules was not harmed. We've done a lot of checking, and no one's mentioned any other indiscretions during shoots.

'A Dog's Purpose' Picketed by PETA We Will Shame the Audience

1/23/2017 1:00 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

0123-dogs-purpose-peta-protests-TMZ-GETTY-01People who want to see "A Dog's Purpose" will be greeted by animal rights activists and taunted if they buy tickets and enter the theater.

PETA organizers tell TMZ they have plans to hit theaters across the country ... protesting the treatment of the animal actors in the flick. As you know, the controversy erupted after TMZ posted video of a German Shepherd in distress when a handler tried to pull the canine into the water.

The studio says the dog was treated humanely throughout the filming and the 40 second incident was harmless ... the dog was willing to go in the water but got freaked out because producers changed the point of entry.

We're told the picketers will be reminiscent of striking union workers, protesting scabs who attempt to cross the picket line.

The studio already canceled the Hollywood premiere and press junkets for fear of violence by animal rights groups.

The movie opens Friday.

'A Dog's Purpose' Premiere Canceled

1/19/2017 7:49 PM PST
Breaking News

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There will be no premiere for "A Dog's Purpose" because the studio that produced it is still reeling from the video TMZ posted showing it's animal star in distress, and there's worry PETA might create an embarrassing or even violent scene.

Amblin and Universal studios are still reviewing footage that syncs up with the video we posted to determine what happened to Hercules when he clearly was recoiling as his trainer tried pulling him into the water. The studios say the dog is fine and was never abused.

The studios know lots of people are upset after seeing the video and there's particular concern about PETA.

The studios have also canceled the press junkets.

'A Dog's Purpose' Hercules Content and Happy Studio Says No Abuse

1/19/2017 6:08 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Hercules the German Shepherd is back on dry ground, playing with a ball Thursday.

We got this video from the studio ... a day after TMZ posted video of the dog on the set, terrified of entering the water during a shoot for "A Dog's Purpose."

Studio sources tell us they've looked at all the footage and say producers blocked out a scene where the dog was supposed to enter the pool at a designated location.  We're told the dog rehearsed the scene and was fine, but then producers changed the point of entry and that's when Hercules got upset.

'A Dog's Purpose' Huge Fine and Jail Possible

1/19/2017 12:56 PM PST
Breaking News

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"A Dog's Purpose" crew members are now under investigation by Manitoba's Chief Veterinary Office, and jail time is on the table if the agency finds any wrongdoing.

The CVO tells TMZ it received a formal complaint on Wednesday, and has begun looking into what went down on the set during filming in Winnipeg.

TMZ posted the video of Hercules, a German Shepherd, appearing terrified to get in churning water to shoot a scene for the movie. The trainer tried for about 40 seconds to put Hercules in the pool. The CVO says it wasn't involved with the filming, because a rep from the American Humane Association was on set. That rep, we've learned, has since been suspended.

The Office could levy a fine up to $10k and/or sentence offenders to up to 6 months in jail.

Producers for the film say Hercules was not harmed during filming.

'A Dog's Purpose' Actor, Director Shaken Over Terrified Dog Video

1/19/2017 5:53 AM PST

The actor who voices the German Shepherd shown in the extremely disturbing video posted by TMZ says he's "shaken and sad" ... and the director echoed the sentiment.

Josh Gad, who appears in the upcoming film as the voice of the dog, says he's seen the video, which he describes as "a scared German Shepard being forced to perform a stunt." He says he doesn't have the full context, but adds, "I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will."

Gad is calling for "an explanation," and so is director Lasse Hallstrom, who says "I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished."

Lisa Vanderpump Torn About Promoting 'A Dog's Purpose' ... But Has a Solution

1/19/2017 8:46 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Lisa Vanderpump's excitement about promoting "A Dog's Purpose" was crushed when she saw the disturbing video of a terrified German Shepherd on the movie's set.

We caught Lisa in Bev Hills, hours after TMZ first posted the footage of Hercules ... one of the dogs starring in the upcoming movie. She was clearly heartsick over what she saw -- particularly because of her commercial for the flick, and her extensive work with the Vanderpump Dog Foundation.

Sources close to the network tell TMZ ... Bravo honchos are mulling over whether to pull the ad Lisa shot, but regardless of what they do -- she's made a decision about the payday she got for doing it.

'A Dog's Purpose' Producers German Shepherd Is Fine, Wasn't Forced to Film

1/18/2017 5:37 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

The German Shepherd seen struggling to stay out of a pool while filming "A Dog's Purpose" was not forced to complete the scene, and shooting only resumed when he was comfortable ... according to producers.

Amblin Entertainment tells TMZ ... the dog, named Hercules, had "several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure [he] was comfortable with all of the stunts."

The production company adds, "On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot."

We're told the director called for a break in shooting and when they resumed ... Hercules was fine with doing the scene, and was NOT thrown into the water.

TMZ broke the story ... behind the scenes footage showed a handler trying to force the dog into the pool. Hercules ended up going under once filming resumed, but divers and handlers quickly rescued him. Amblin says, "Hercules is happy and healthy."

The company adds, the movie "is a celebration of the special connection between humans and their dogs. And in the spirit of this relationship, the Amblin production team followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals."

They're continuing to review footage and Amblin says it's confident great care and concern was shown for Hercules and all dogs featured in the film.

The Rock Lets a Finger Slip ... 'Saluting' Kevin Hart

1/18/2017 6:46 PM PST

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson got busted giving Kevin Hart the bird on live TV, but to be fair ... Kevin kind of had it coming.

Hart had just finished thanking all of his co-stars for winning favorite comedy performance in "Central Intelligence" on the People's Choice Awards ... but gave the reverse of a shout-out to The Rock. 

The Rock laughed it off, but then decided to pay Kevin back right before the camera cut away ... a split second too late.

The Rock won an award for Favorite Premium Series Actor a few minutes later for his role on "Ballers."

'A Dog's Purpose' Video Triggers Suspension

1/18/2017 2:45 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

The representative from the American Humane Association who was on the set of "A Dog's Purpose" has been suspended after officials saw video of a terrorized dog on set.

TMZ posted the hard-to-watch video Wednesday morning, showing a German Shepherd that clearly did not want to swim in the turbulent waters, but was forced to do so by his handler.

The American Humane Association was on set and is responsible for enforcing safety guidelines for animal actors. The org is the body that validates that no animals are harmed in the making of a film.

The AHA tells TMZ, "We are placing the safety representative who was on the set on administrative leave immediately and are bringing in an independent third party to conduct an investigation into this matter."

Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures told TMZ, they have always been determined to foster the ethical treatment of actor animals and are investigating the matter.

'A Dog's Purpose' Terrified German Shepherd Forced into Turbulent Water

1/18/2017 10:44 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

One of the dogs in the upcoming film "A Dog's Purpose" desperately resisted shooting a risky scene, but chilling footage shows filmmakers apparently forcing the animal into rushing water.

TMZ obtained this video of a scene shot in a pool outside Winnipeg, Canada in November 2015. You can see a trainer forcibly shoving a German Shepherd -- one of at least 5 dogs used in the production -- into the frothing water, but the animal wanted NO part of it ... and repeatedly clawed at the pool's edge.

Sources connected to production tell us 8 outboard motors were used to churn the water and recreate a rushing river. The dog eventually got in the water -- or was forced in -- but was quickly submerged.

It's unclear if the dog going under was scripted, but someone immediately yelled, "Cut it!" ... and handlers rushed to the animal.

We're told director Lasse Hallström was present the whole time, and at least one member of the crew was extremely disturbed by the dog's treatment during this scene.

Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures have seen the video and tell TMZ, "Fostering a safe environment and ensuring the ethical treatment of our animal actors was of the utmost importance to those involved in making this film and we will look into the circumstances surrounding this video."

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