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Hollywood's "Appaloosa" wins praise for horse treatment

February 20, 2009

A scene from Appaloosa.

As the world waits to see which movies will win a coveted Academy Award on Sunday night, the American Humane Society says the new film Appaloosa deserves special mention for its treatment of horses.

The society's Film and TV Unit, which gives movies the right to add the "No Animals Were Harmed" end-credit disclaimer, was asked what films it would recognise if the organisation had its own version of the Oscars.

It said it would give the "Best Group Effort to Protect Horses" award to Appaloosa. In Appaloosa, there is a scene in which men on horses cross a stream, then gallop up a ravine. Animal Safety Representative Ed Lish explained that sending the horses through a stream, where sharp rocks or other dangers might be hidden under the water, would be against the American Humane Society's guidelines. "The entire crew immediately jumped in to scour both the stream and the ravine to clear the way of debris and ensure safety and comfort for the horses," the society said.

The society, through its Los Angeles-based Film and TV Unit, has a long-standing presence in Hollywood. Since 1940, it has overseen the use of animals in filmed entertainment. It is the only organisation authorised to monitor the safety of animals on the sets of movies, TV shows, commercials and music videos. Productions that make sure to have an American Humane Animal Safety Rep on set and follow the society's "Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media" and keep animals safe on the set are awarded the famous "No Animals Were Harmed" end-credit disclaimer.

"The use of animals in filmed entertainment celebrates the roles of animals in our history, in our families and in our lives," said Marie Belew Wheatley, president and CEO of American Humane, in her blog this week on the American Humane website.

"They can help tell stories of the beauty of the human-animal bond, or the tragedy when that bond breaks. Animals play a starring role in many of our lives - it is only natural to feature them in films and TV shows."

Other movies which received a mention by the society were:

Best Movie Magic Featuring an Animal - The Dark Knight.
The film features a very dramatic sequence in which dogs attack a man and then are attacked themselves. Rest assured, no dogs were harmed. The production used a combination of techniques, including playing with the dogs, filming the dogs from various angles and using prop dogs, to achieve a realistic effect.

Most Poignant Movie Illustrating the Human-Animal Bond - Marley & Me.
If you saw it, you had to dig out some tissues. This movie shows that even an overly rambunctious dog is still a valued and important member of the family, and the loss of a companion animal is truly the loss of a friend.

Best Behind-the-Scenes Rescue Story - Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
According to Chris Obonsawin, American Humane's Certified Animal Safety Representative on the set of this film, one of the lead dogs who played Papi was a day away from being euthanized before a trainer discovered him in a California animal shelter. The dog now lives with the movie's head trainer. Many trainers find their animals at animal shelters - trainer Frank Inn adopted a mutt from a California shelter in the 1960s. The mutt became Benji.

Best Rescue by a Snake - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
When Mutt grabs a vine to save Indy, who is sinking in quicksand, they find themselves grasping a snake. The production used a real python for some gentle "establishing shots," then brought in a prop substitute for the "real" action.



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