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A Dog's Purpose filmmakers face animal cruelty accusations

Screengrab from TMZ video Image copyright TMZ
Image caption A video posted by TMZ shows the German Shepherd, Hercules, resisting attempts to push it in the frothing water

Animal lovers are calling for a boycott of a family movie amid accusations of animal cruelty on set.

Leaked video from the Winnipeg, Canada, production of A Dog's Purpose shows a German Shepherd struggling to stay out of a pool of churning water.

The footage was posted on the TMZ website. The director and an actor said they are "disturbed" by the video.

But the film's producer and distributor deny the dog was mishandled and say it is "happy and healthy".

Image copyright Amblin Entertainment
Image caption Dennis Quaid (R) stars in A Dog's Purpose

A Dog's Purpose, starring Dennis Quaid, is billed as "a celebration of the special connection between humans and their dogs".

But the minute-long 2015 video from the Winnipeg movie set posted online appears to show a dog in distress.

In the video, a man can be overheard saying: "Don't worry, it's warm water at least. He ain't going to calm down until he goes in the water. Just got to throw him in."

The dog, a German Shepherd called Hercules, appears terrified and is seen struggling and clawing the side of the pool as his handler pushes him into the water.

Animal rights groups have expressed outrage.

One organisation, Animal Justice, is alleging violations of federal and provincial laws.

It has filed cruelty complaints with the Winnipeg Humane Society, the Chief Veterinary Office of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Police.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Actor and comedian Josh Gad says he has asked for an explanation from the studio about the video

The Winnipeg Humane Society says it was consulted for two scenes in the film.

"This dog was fearful and not properly trained for this experience," the organisation's chief executive said in a statement.

"Training for a scene like this should take place weeks - if not months - in advance to help a dog get comfortable with not only being in water of that depth, but also the turbulence."

American Humane, the organisation that oversees animal safety during filming, said it was investigating the incident and had suspended its representative who was on the set.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The film's director has called for a 'thorough investigation'

The film's producer, Amblin Entertainment, and distributor, Universal Pictures, said Hercules was properly treated on set.

In a joint statement released late on Wednesday, they say that "great care and concern" was shown for the German Shepherd and other dogs featured in the film.

They also suggested that the TMZ footage was edited, saying there was several days of rehearsals for the water scenes to ensure the dog was comfortable with the shoot.

"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," the statement said.

The film's director Lasse Hallstrom, who is known for What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Chocolat, expressed concern over the footage on Twitter.

"I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A Dog's Purpose," he said, denying TMZ's report that he had witnessed the incident.

"I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished."

Actor Josh Gad, who voices the dog in the film, said he was "shaken and sad" after seeing the video.

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