1. What is the “No Animals Were Harmed®” certification program?
- The “No Animals Were Harmed®” certification program was created by American Humane Association, the country’s first national humanitarian organization. Since 1877, this charity has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting children, pets, farm animals, and animals in entertainment from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Following a horrific incident in 1939 when a horse was forced to run off a cliff for the sake of movie action shot, American Humane Association got involved in protecting animal actors and has been overseeing the welfare and safety of some 100,000 animals on approximately 2,000 film and television productions each year.
2. What is the role of AHA’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives?
- The role of AHA’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives is to prevent injury and abuse (intentional harm) to animal actors on set. These highly trained and dedicated animal advocates include veterinarians and professionals with backgrounds in animal science and animal behavior. Over more than 70 years on tens of thousands of sets, our safety reps have successfully kept millions of America’s most beloved animal actors safe. Our representatives review the scripts for animal action to prevent problems before animals ever appear on set, inspect the locations for safety hazards, provide advice on safety, and enforce AHA’s comprehensive 128-page, “Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media,” the bible of the industry. They also provide comprehensive reports on the treatment of the animals during production, which form the basis for our ratings, certifications, and public reviews, which are posted online for all the public to see.
3. What is AHA’s jurisdiction and authority in protecting animal actors?
- Currently, AHA has jurisdiction and authority to protect animal actors only while they are actually on the sets of film and television productions.
- AHA does not now have the authority, funding or staffing to oversee off-site elements of animal care, transportation, training or housing, which are under the jurisdiction of governmental and other groups. Recently, a news report listed unfortunate incidents, many of which had nothing to do with the animals’ treatment on set or occurred when then animals were not under our care.
- Assigning blame to AHA for protections the organization cannot legally cover reflects a superficial treatment of a complex challenge and is a disservice to a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for sentient beings.
4. What is the process when an animal is injured or becomes ill on set?
- When a Certified Safety Representative is on set and an incident occurs, the animal stops working, is provided veterinary care and is not allowed to return to the set until approved by the attending veterinarian. AHA’s rigorous and extensive “Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media” forbid the use of sick, injured, medicated, underfed, or otherwise unfit animals. Our Certified Safety representatives are specially trained to recognize signs of stress and injury, and this skill is vital to preventing abuse from occurring. We offer insights and training to our film industry partners, thus improving humane protections for animal actors on site.
5. How can I find out what animal action was taken on a specific movie?
- AHA is and always has been dedicated to keeping the public informed about the treatment of animals in film. We provide a detailed movie review specific to how animals were featured and treated during filming for each film in which we participate. Movie reviews are provided publicly upon the release of a film and describe animal action, work on set, problems, care and treatment. We maintain a database of our movie reviews on our film unit website: www.humanehollywood.org/index.php/movie-reviews.
6. Are animal actors abused and even die as a result when in your care?
- No. We do not allow animals to be mistreated under any circumstances. Unfortunately, as with human actors, injury and illness can sometimes occur (although it is very rare). Regrettably, some deaths also occur, which upsets us greatly, but in most of these cases, the incidents had nothing to do with the animals’ treatment, andy did not occur while under our watchful eye. For example, there was a news report about a dog suffering from cancer who died during the production of “Our Idiot Brother.” The truth is that when the dog was working it appeared to become lethargic. Our safety reps immediately stopped him from working and he was sent to a veterinarian where he diagnosed with cancer. He did no more work on the movie, as was proper. The dog’s illness had nothing to do with production and certainly there was no “abuse.” In other examples, animals died of old age or natural causes. Ahorse that had finished filming on the set of “War Horse” was checked out of production and sent home. The horse died of natural causes, which was verified by a veterinarian. A trainer whose livelihood depended on his beloved trained chipmunk was leaving a location after filming. When the trainer slipped, the chipmunk who he always carried, fell and he stepped on it. The trainer (not an AHA employee) was devastated and as it was obviously an unintended freak accident unrelated to the action in the film, it did not affect the rating, None of these incidents were due to any activity related to production.
7. Is it true that a tiger nearly drowned during production of the “Life of Pi” movie?
- No. Tigers are excellent swimmers. In this case, the tiger who was being closely monitored had a brief moment of panic, but was removed from the tank safely. We investigated this incident thoroughly and determined with absolute certainty that the tiger was fine and suffered absolutely no harm. In many ways, this is a perfect example of why AHA is needed on set – to provide quick help and prevent an animal from being harmed. The film’s producer, Ang Lee, recently confirmed that the tiger was fine and was given excellent treatment. The tiger was cleared by a veterinarian and is in sound health today.
8. What is AHA currently doing to improve animal protection in the film industry?
- Animal welfare is a continuous process, and advancements to further protect animals in the film industry are made by AHA on an ongoing basis. Since 2011, we have made significant program enhancements to further extend protections for animal actors.
- We formed a Scientific Advisory Committee, comprised of the nation’s leading veterinarians, animal welfare leaders, and animal behavior experts to review our program, affirm our guidelines and provide recommendations on an ongoing basis to better understand how animal actors can be further protected on film and TV sets.
- We established requirements for independent, third-party investigations any time a serious injury or fatality occurs on set.
- We have enlisted a full time Chief Veterinary Officer to head our film industry program and are recruiting additional veterinarians to join our staff of Certified Animal Safety Representatives in high-production states. These specialists oversee the training of all CASR staff, work with film industry representatives to ensure proper procedures on set and work to identify new practices and treatments to ensure animal actors receive the most compassionate care during their time on set.
9. Does AHA have a conflict of interest with the film and television industry providing part of its funding?
- AHA is a fiercely independent charity whose first, foremost and primary interest is the good, safe treatment of the animals. We have done this for more than 70 years and we don’t do it “for the money,” as some have cynically proposed. In fact, for many, many years we have actually PAID out of our own pocket to be on set protecting animals. Because of our dedication to the welfare of animals, we have spent $8.5 million of our own funds in just the past seven years just to keep placing our animal advocates on the sets and keep our beloved animal actors safe.
- Ultimately, it is in everyone’s best interest – the production companies’, animal lovers’, and most especially, the animals’ – that animals be kept safe and are well-treated. The public will not tolerate abuse, cruelty and the mistreatment of animals – and neither will we. That is our mission, vision and mandate upon which we were founded. In the vast majority of cases throughout the years, we have found common ground on this matter with the producers and directors of productions that welcome us on set to keep animals safe. We always look to build on this agreement, but we will never turn a blind eye to animal abuse or misuse.
10. Why is AHA receiving negative attention?
It appears that a vocal minority are intent on spreading misinformation about our film and television program. This misrepresentation does not accurately reflect our standards, mission, or current state of operations. As we have shown, many of these allegations are blatant distortions of our program and seek to represent a handful of sad and unavoidable accidents over a period of many years. There are also those who disagree with any use of animals in entertainment and see their participation as “abuse,” especially when something goes wrong, We respect their right to their opinions, but we don’t respect their right to their own facts. We are the ones working to protect animals and as long as animals are being used in entertainment, we will be there to protect them, despite the risks and criticism. What is important is our overall track record of safety and success. We continue to improve the program out of dedication to our animal co-stars and will not abandon them in the face of criticism.
AHA has more than seven decades of experience working with the film industry and is dedicated to providing a safe experience for animal actors. Millions of animal actors have had good, positive, and humane experiences on film and TV production sets and have won over the public with their talent on screen.
Our Film and Television Unit’s mission is to protect animals on set, and there is no other organization with our experience, expertise and devotion in this arena. With your help we continue to do so as long as the animals need us.