Keeping Animals Safe On Movie Sets

Evan Almighty

With movies like Evan Almighty that involve dozens of various animals, one may wonder how do they handle all of the different animal species and ensure that they are safe, happy and healthy.

The assurance of “no animal was harmed” during the movie can only be issued by the American Humane Association and it’s granted only after careful monitoring of animal treatment during filming. The organization’s film and television unit monitors more than 1,000 productions each year. The process begins months before production actually begins when the American Humane Association and the filmmakers discuss how animal scenes will be filmed. Whenever they have the smallest concern or question, the film and television unit always errs on the side of safety.

More on animals’ safety during filming after the jump.

From Steve Dale’s Pet World:

Species ranged from giraffes to zebus (a kind of large African cattle). American Humane certified safety representative Gina Johnson says she’s never worked with most of the species seen in “Evan Almighty,” including badgers and hyenas, both potentially dangerous.

Of course, Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Wanda Sykes and the other actors weren’t on set exchanging lines with potentially dangerous animals. “If the scene required interaction with an animal – the actor was added (to the scene) later,” she says.

There was still plenty of human/wild interaction. In one scene Carell worked with lots of birds. “Let’s just say he had a good sense of humor being under the birds,” Johnson says and laughs.

On the talk show circuit promoting the movie, Sykes said, “The humane people there and the animal trainers said, ‘Now, don’t worry – this wild animal will be just fine. Just don’t look at the animal.’ I just kept looking away. I wasn’t going to have some animal say to me, ‘Are you looking at me?”

In TV interviews, Carrel said that he got into a “disagreement” with a baboon. “No question, after that day, I am sure the baboon called his agent and said, ‘I’m never working with that human again.”


The creature-comfort challenges during Evan Almighty filming were many: housing predators away from natural prey (two farms miles apart were leased); scheduling filming so natural enemies were on set at different times and didn’t even cross paths during transport (the wolves were never within miles of the sheep, even though it appears in the movie as if they hung out together); ensuring that heat-loving beasts didn’t get too cold and cold-weather lovers didn’t get hot; providing daily baths for the elephants (even the director participated); and scheduling quiet time for shy animals, play time for the outgoing and sufficient exercise for everyone.

“The sheer volume of animals made this a big task for us,” says Karen Rosa, director of the association’s film and TV unit. “But actually, everything had been so completely discussed and planned months before filming even began, and there was such a culture of respect for the animals it was a non-problematic project.”

It’s all by the book, an 80-page guide listing hundreds of rules relating to every species and every situation. Unrestrained animals aren’t allowed near open fires; earplugs are required for animals in close proximity to shooting, explosives or other loud noises; and dogs and cats can’t work together unless they’ve been conditioned to do so.

There are rules about how many hours animals can work; keeping them comfortable in tough conditions; introducing the animals to people or other animals that will share their scenes; and when it’s allowable to gussy up an animal in costumes.

Sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, animals get hurt. “Sadly, sometimes there are accidents, especially with horses. They get spooked easily,” Rosa says. When that happens, even when the crew has been conscientious, no seal is offered. “We would not in good conscience be able to say no animal was harmed, of course.”

2 Responses to “Keeping Animals Safe On Movie Sets”

  1. ann says:

    Too bad the pet food industry can’t get a clue.

  2. Boycott China says:

    China doesn’t have a clue either. From CNN:

    Beijing police raided a village where live pigs were force-fed wastewater to boost their weight before slaughter, state media reported.

    Plastic pipes had been forced down the pigs’ throats and villagers had pumped each 220-pound pig with 44 pounds of wastewater, the Beijing Morning Post reported Thursday.

    Paperwork showed the pigs were headed for one of Beijing’s main slaughterhouses and stamps on their ears indicated that they already had been through quarantine and inspection, the paper said. Suspects escaped during the raid and no arrests were made, it said.

    Earlier this week, inspectors announced they had closed 180 food factories in China in the first half of this year and seized tons of candy, pickles, crackers and seafood tainted with formaldehyde, illegal dyes and industrial wax.

    “These are not isolated cases,” Han Yi, an official with Wei’s quality administration, was quoted as saying in Wednesday’s state-run China Daily newspaper.

    Han’s admission was significant because the agency has said in the past that safety violations were the work of a few rogue operators — a claim aimed at protecting China’s billions of dollars of food exports.

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