What AHA monitors
Gina Johnson at the filming of Lie to Me
The non-profit, which offers its services free of charge to all SAG and AFTRA productions, maintains a website that chronicles animal activity. For last month’s release of Morning Glory, starring Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams, the activity was documented thusly:
“Before filming, all grounds were inspected for hazards and sets were closed and secured. Cast and crew members were introduced to the animals and instructed on their proper handling.
“For a shot in which a cat walks on a table, trainers placed the cat on its mark and allowed it to walk at liberty.
“For a brief and mild scene in which a man leads a camel on a rope in the wings of a television studio, a costumed trainer walked the well-rehearsed camel from one point to another.
“The pigeons that fly up in two scenes were coincidentally caught on film in their natural environment.
“The production provided documentation on the stock footage of the Chinese Crested dog and the taxidermy pheasants used in the film.
“Due to late notification or limited resources, American Humane Association did not monitor any of the dog, bird or fish action or any of the wild animals shown during the “Jack Hanna”-style television segment.”
According to Karen Rosa, Vice President of AHA’s Film and Television Unit, no detail is ever too much information for the moviegoers who closely monitor onscreen animal activity. “You can have an incredibly violent film where a lot of human beings are shooting each other and dying and nobody will say a word,” she says. “But if you so much as push the dog we will get calls, e-mails and letters. People care.”
The AHA team also monitors certain kinds of TV shows, but not all. They’re not on the scene for reality-type shows (like hunting and fishing shows that often include animals being killed). But they are there for many dramas that include animals.
In HBO’s True Blood, for example, they monitored the dogfighting scenes in the episode “Hitting the Ground.” No dogfighting actually occurred, and the two dogs that appear in the ring together were actually filmed separately. A stuffed prop dog was used for the dog that was “shot” and “killed” (off screen) and then tossed aside. AHA notes that sequences like this “provide us with an opportunity to remind communities of the seriousness and sheer brutality of this blood sport.”