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American Humane Association Responds To The Hollywood Reporter

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Hollywood Reporter recently ran a story that distorts the work and record of a respected nonprofit organization that has kept millions of beloved animal actors safe on film and television sets around the world for more than 70 years.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101108/DC97343LOGO)

The article paints a picture that is completely unrecognizable to us or anyone who knows American Humane Association's work.  Far from allowing abuse or neglect to occur, we have a remarkably high safety record of 99.98 percent on set. Over a span of many years, despite our best efforts, there have occasionally been rare accidents, most of them minor and not intentional. Regrettably, there have even been some deaths, which upset us greatly, but in many of the cases reported, they had nothing to do with the animals' treatment on set, or occurred when the animals were not under our care. For example:

  • The article claimed that a dog suffering from cancer died during the production of "Our Idiot Brother." Sadly, a dog did take ill and was indeed diagnosed with cancer, but the illness was not work-related and was not due to any activity related to production.
  • The article suggested that a horse died during post-production after being filmed for "War Horse."  What it does not say however is that AHA's jurisdiction does not extend to post-production and transit. In fact, the horse mentioned finished its work and was checked out of production. In transit home, according to a veterinarian, it died of natural causes. 
  • The article seemed to lay blame for 27 animal deaths during "The Hobbit" when in fact the animals were not under AHA's jurisdiction or authority in any way. We only monitor animals when they are on the set. When we heard reports months afterwards that animals might have died on a working farm there, we voluntarily sent representatives out to the farm to inspect it and make safety recommendations, which were instituted by production at considerable cost, ensuring better welfare for all the animals on the farm. We were transparent with all the details and our outrage over the regrettable loss of life. Here is our official public statement we made at the time for the record: http://www.americanhumane.org/about-us/newsroom/news-releases/aha-the-hobbit-animal-deaths.html

When a Certified Safety Representative is on the set and an incident occurs, the animal stops working, is given veterinary care and not allowed to return to work until it is reported sound by the attending veterinarian. This practice is vital. Recognizing injury is vital to preventing abuse from occurring, thus providing humane protections for animal actors.  Although the article criticizes the distinction between accidental injury and intentional harm, that is precisely why the program exists - to reasonably make that distinction. This program is about prevention and as with any good safety program, American Humane Association is continually improving

Under the new senior administration of American Humane Association, a comprehensive program review of the No Animals Were Harmed® program was conducted in 2011 and 2012. These actions are bringing about game-changing innovations and enhancements that are being implemented to further increase the rigor of the safety standards while improving the quality of oversight for enhanced protections for animals working in entertainment.  This new administration has made broad, sweeping changes for enhanced protections for animals working in film and entertainment. These changes were necessary, mission-driven, and will continue to build a better and safer future for the animals we love.  The improvements include:

1) The creation of a Scientific Advisory Committee, composed of global experts in animal welfare, who are right now reviewing our comprehensive and science-based "Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media" – the bible of the industry – to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect animal actors and include the newest findings and research on animal welfare

2) We have brought on Dr. Kwane Stewart, a respected veterinarian, to head the program and bring a new level of rigor and science to our mission and passion to protect the animals in our care

3) As part of our efforts to further improve safety, we recently posted positions to hire licensed veterinarians to serve as our Certified Safety Representatives, and place them in geographic areas across the country where high volumes of filmmaking occurs, including Texas, New Mexico, New York, and Louisiana.  We are top-tiering our staff to bring an even higher level of expertise to our important work, and basing our safety reps closer to sets, which will help keep down travel and housing costs for the charity

4) Earlier this year, we implemented a policy that if any animal is seriously injured or dies on set to commission an independent, third-party investigation to find out what happened so that we may prevent as much as is possible such incidents in the future

American Humane Association has made tough changes to ensure that the No Animals Were Harmed® program is structured to meet the humane charter with which we have been entrusted. It's all about the animal actors and ensuring their safety.  Abuse in film and entertainment is not pervasive, as the salacious headlines imply; rather our experience is that most everyone we work with in production settings want to do right by the animals, as do we.

We are extremely proud of the work American Humane Association has done for more than 70 years to protect millions of animals on movie and television production sets.  We are a mission-driven small nonprofit that has not only worked to protect animals working in film and entertainment across the country and around the globe, we have done so by utilizing millions of dollars of our own funds so that the certified animal safety representatives could be on more than 2,000 sets a year, making sure that some 100,000 of our most beloved animal co-stars are treated humanely and kept safe each and every year.

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