New Nonprofit Hopes to Bolster Animal Safety in Movies

A group set to launch this month says it will improve upon the American Humane Association’s “No Animals Were Harmed” program, which came under fire last fall after an investigative report alleged the association was failing to act in cases of mistreatment.

In light of an investigative report that uncovered several flaws in the American Humane Association’s “No Animals Were Harmed” program, a new nonprofit hopes it can better ensure the safety of animals used in the entertainment business.

We don’t want to mislead the public by issuing a blanket disclaimer.

Set to launch this month, Movie Animals Protected, Inc. (MAP), told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) that its approach to animal protection will be different from and an improvement upon AHA’s program.

The new organization said it will provide special guidelines for animals performing in live events and reality shows, will monitor animal housing and transportation, and will issue immediate statements about on-set deaths and post investigation results online.  But MAP said it will not offer absolute disclaimers about animal safety as AHA does.

“We don’t want to mislead the public by issuing a blanket disclaimer,” Barbara Casey, who is leading the organization, told THR.

Casey, a former director in AHA’s film and television unit, is suing the organization for wrongful termination, claiming the association fired her in January 2012 after she threatened to speak out about the mistreatment of horses on the HBO horse-racing drama Luck.

Those allegations of mistreatment, including the deaths of four horses, were the focus of a THR investigative report published last fall. The report also alleged that failures in the AHA program, which launched in 1989 and claims a 99.98 percent safety record for on-set animals, led to the near-drowning of a tiger on the set of Life of Pi and the death of more than two dozen animals during a filming break of The Hobbit trilogy.

On its blog, AHA stated that over the years, despite its best efforts, there have been occasional, unintentional accidents and after a complete audit of its program in 2011 and 2012, the association added new elements to ensure animal safety.

“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,” the association stated.

THR suggested that AHA’s close ties to the film industry led to inaction in several of the cases—a claim some are already warning could eventually apply to MAP. The new association is applying for a grant from the Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund, the same group that recently gave AHA $2.4 million.

“If they’re getting money from the same people, they’re already compromised,” Ed Stewart, president of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, told THR. “Now you’re just into a catfight between two organizations doing versions of the same thing.”

A lawsuit involving the HBO show "Luck" (starring Nick Nolte, left) partly led former American Humane Association employee Barbara Casey to start her own organization. (HBO press photo)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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