WINNIPEG — A Toronto-based animal law organization has filed animal cruelty complaints over the treatment of a German shepherd on the set of the film "A Dog's Purpose.''
Animal Justice says footage apparently shot near Winnipeg in November 2015 shows the filmmakers forcing the dog into turbulent water.
The footage, which first surfaced on the website TMZ, shows the distressed dog fighting to stay out of the water by repeatedly clawing at the edge of the pool.
A subsequent shot shows the dog submerged under the water while a voice is hear yelling "Cut it!'' and handlers moved in to pull the animal out.
"Throwing a terrified German shepherd into rushing water is blatant animal cruelty."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called for a boycott of the movie, which stars Dennis Quaid and is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, and is set to be released later this month.
Animal Justice says it has filed complaints with the Winnipeg Humane Society, the Chief Veterinary Office of Manitoba, and the Winnipeg police department alleging violations of federal and provincial animal protection laws.
"Throwing a terrified German shepherd into rushing water is blatant animal cruelty,'' Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, said in a news release.
"It is illegal to inflict suffering and anxiety onto animals, and there is no loophole that lets Hollywood moviemakers get away with abusing animals on a film set."
The footage, which first surfaced on the website TMZ, shows the distressed dog fighting to stay out of the water by repeatedly clawing at the edge of the pool. (Photo: TMZ screengrab)
The American Humane society has also launched an investigation into the incident and says it has suspended its safety representative who worked on the film.
The film's producer, Amblin Entertainment, and distributor, Universal Pictures, said in a joint statement that they are reviewing the footage, but they are confident that "great care and concern was shown'' for the dog.
"There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts,'' the statement said.
Actor Josh Gad, who lends his voice to a dog in the film, issued a statement on Twitter saying he has asked the studio and production team for an explanation of what he calls "disturbing images.''
Josh Gad attends the 2016 Children's Hospital Los Angeles 'Once Upon a Time' Gala at L.A. Live Event Deck on October 15, 2016. (Photo: Getty Images)
He said that while the finished film is "one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen,'' he was troubled by the video.
"I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will,'' Gad wrote. A publicist for the actor confirmed the post was authentic.
-- With files from The Associated Press