‘A Dog’s Purpose’: Inside ‘Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret’ About Animals on Set

Veteran Hollywood animal trainer Bill Berloni said the recently leaked footage from “A Dog’s Purpose” was as “gut-wrenching” to him as it was to other animal lovers who witnessed the behind-the-scenes footage of a dog that appeared to be on the verge of drowning.

But animals are mistreated on movie sets more often than the small fraction of incidents that leak to the press indicate, Berloni said, calling the problem a “dirty Hollywood secret.”

“A Dog’s Purpose” is the only the latest Hollywood production to face allegations of animal abuse. In 2012, horse, goat and chicken wranglers working on Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” told the Associated Press that 27 animals had died during the making of the films because of poor conditions at the farm where they were kept.

Also Read: ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Writer Says ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ in Making of Film

The American Humane Association gave the trilogy its “no animals were harmed” seal of approval, but the wranglers said that the AHA only monitored the animals while they were on set, not at off-set farms containing sinkholes and other hazards. AHA did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Also that year, HBO canceled Dustin Hoffman’s horse racing drama “Luck” after three horses had to be euthanized during production. HBO had been working with AHA to improve conditions for the horses’ safety after the second euthanization, but the network finally pulled the plug after the third incident — and before the complete first season had wrapped.

According to industry veterans, the problem often arises because animal handlers have little or no power on set. In fact, animals fall under the purview of the prop department and are regularly hired through the same process for bringing inanimate objects to the set, said Berloni, whose credits include “Hope Springs,” “Paterson” and the 2014 “Annie” remake.

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“On any day, I get a call and they will say, ‘We need four puppies for a shoot,’” he said. “I ask, ‘What do the puppies have to do?’ and they tell me they have to do this and this and this. Then, because there are no unions, laws, or standardization, producers just go with the lowest bid….