The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed allegations of animal abuse against one of Hollywood's leading animal training and handling firms.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, PETA filed a complaint December 28 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging neglect and mistreatment by Birds & Animals Unlimited (BAU), which has rented out animals to hundreds of productions, from "The Hangover," "Marley and Me," "Pirates of the Caribbean," and the Harry Potter movies to the TV show "Game of Thrones." According to PETA, an eyewitness who worked at BAU documented "chronic neglect, including sick and injured animals who went without adequate veterinary care, filthy enclosures, and animals who were denied food so that they would be hungry when being trained to do tricks."
"Dogs, including one who BAU staff said was used in the movie Hotel for Dogs, were kept outside and denied bedding, even when temperatures dropped into the low 40s. Those who staff claimed were used in The Solutrean and CBS' Zoo were housed alone in kennels on hard concrete floors.
Snoop, a geriatric, ailing dog believed to have been used in the film Marmaduke, was frequently left outside overnight in temperatures below 50 degrees. After testing positive for heartworm and months of refusing to eat, vomiting, losing weight, and bleeding from his paws (apparently from his nails), he lost control of his bowel movements and was finally euthanized.
An owl named Crash, who BAU staff claimed was used in the Harry Potter movies, was kept in a feces-strewn enclosure that went uncleaned for at least six weeks. He and other birds of prey lived in inadequate, small enclosures and were deprived of both sensory stimulation and socialization.
Penguins who BAU employees said were used in Batman Returns were denied fresh drinking water. Their only source of water was a chlorinated pool.
Animals were sometimes denied food during training. Gus and Nibbs, two cats who BAU staff said were being used in the upcoming film Benji, were virtually starved for several days because a trainer said they were "fat," and they lost 5 percent of their body weight in five days."
BAU responded to the allegations in an eight-page statement to The Hollywood Reporter, questioning the alleged whistleblower's reliability, and calling PETA's exposé "misleading" and "selective in what it shows - and what it omits - in an effort to serve PETA's ends."
THR asked Bob Ferber, a retired L.A. City Attorney's Office prosecutor who founded its Animal Protection Unit, to review both PETA's allegations and BAU's response. Here's his take: "This may or may not eventually rise to the level of a criminal case, but it's still shocking. They are keeping animals the way a local, poor, underfunded shelter would do it. These facilities are pathetic-looking for a private facility making money off of these animals. I almost never agree with PETA — they do sometimes take an isolated situation and make it out as more than it really is — but the entertainment industry should be surprised by what's going on here."
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