HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals held a demonstration in Hollywood Friday during the opening of the movie "A Dog's Purpose," claiming animal cruelty on the set.
Dozens of protesters rallied outside ArcLight Hollywood theater and chanted: "There's no excuse for animal abuse."
One of the protesters was dressed in a dog costume and held a sign that said: "My purpose isn't to be in your damn movie."
"Animals should not be abused for films or for television," PETA protest organizer Lisa Lange said.
Leaked footage obtained by TMZ appeared to show a German Shepherd named Hercules being forced into a pool of churning water for a stunt. The dog struggled as his handler tried to force him into the water. He fought so hard his handler had to drag him back out.
More footage showed the dog actually going into the water. It appeared he nearly drowned and had to be rescued from the giant tank.
The movie's producer, Gavin Polone, has rebuked the trainer and crew. But he claimed PETA was distorting the truth when it suggested that the dog was abused repeatedly.
"The sad part is - it's being stirred up with a video that does not paint a complete picture," Polone explained.
Hercules plays a heroic police dog in the movie. Polone said during rehearsals, the German Shepherd was actually eager to jump into the water, but a decision to change the direction of the jump at the last minute frightened the dog.
He blamed the dog's handler and a safety monitor for trying to force Hercules into the water once they saw he didn't want to do it.
He accused PETA of editing the footage to portray a pattern of abuse because it has an agenda of forcing Hollywood to stop using animals to make movies.
"This happened to this dog. And no amount of Hollywood spin is going to change that," Lange refuted.
The movie's glitzy red carpet premiere was cancelled amid the controversy. But Polone said calls to boycott the movie are going too far.
"They should not believe misleading video that made it look like Hercules was injured or even killed," Polone added.
The American Humane Association said its safety monitor on the set has been placed on administrative leave, and the scene should have been stopped once the dog showed signs of resistance.
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