‘The Pack’ Condemned by PETA Over Dog-Human Rappelling Challenge
PETA is baring its teeth at Amazon over leaked footage from Season 1 of “The Pack” — an “Amazing Race”-style series where dogs and their owners travel and traverse nature together — showing the dogs being put into seemingly dangerous situations.
The videos, taken from raw footage of a challenge in the show’s third episode, show the tasked human-dog teams rappelling down the 108-foot Los Campesinos Falls in Costa Rica. The clips are unedited and were shot with a cell phone off an editing machine, according to a source with knowledge of the post-production, and did not make it air. The source added that the editor was told to cut around these parts to make the scene work.
You can watch the two videos below.
“Video footage of a dog dangling in midair from someone’s harness and paddling in a futile effort to gain his footing before getting swung into a rock face shows exactly where producers’ priorities lay for ‘The Pack,’” PETA told TheWrap in a statement. “It seems that this clip ended up on the cutting room floor because producers knew that the dog was not enthusiastic and happy, but distressed. This senior dog should be curled up on a sofa, not thrown into one dangerous situation after another for the sake of ratings. No dog would choose to be part of this ‘pack.’”
The group also sent a letter addressed to Amazon’s head of unscripted programming, Chris Castallo, in which they say the footage “establishes exactly why real dogs and other animals don’t belong in films or on TV, as well as the way their safety and well-being are sacrificed for ratings.”
Representatives for Amazon — and Renegade83, which produces the series — did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
“The Pack,” hosted by Olympian Lindsey Vonn and her “canine co-host” Lucy, is an “Amazing Race”-style travel competition show in which human-dog teams face challenges designed to test the bond between human and animal. Animal safety was a major part of the show’s marketing, with Amazon touting the team of “accredited veterinarians and certified dog experts” that were present for each leg.
In an interview with Variety ahead of the show’s debut, executive producer Jay Bienstock said those experts had “absolute power” on site. “If dog safety said, ‘Stop this,’ we would stop. We gave them a pass at everything,” he said.
The safety narrative is also written into the show. In the Costa Rica episode just before the rappelling challenge, Vonn reminded the audience that the dogs and owners were put through an “orientation” prior to the start of the season where the teams were trained on a variety of skills, including rappelling.
An on-screen “dog safety team” member also appears on camera to discuss what’s about to happen: “What we’re looking for are signs or cues of stress — it could be licking, it would be yawning,” the person says. “We check their heart rates before and after, we’ve taken everything into consideration to make sure the dogs are having a good time and that they’re happy.”
Read the full letter from PETA:
We were alerted to this video of a senior dog dangling from someone’s harness and paddling in a futile effort to gain his footing before getting swung into a rock face, evidently during the filming of “The Pack.”
Nothing about this dog says “happy to be here.” He seems worried, and being attached to a climber ascending a rock face would obviously be terrifying for animals, rather than a “fun and exciting” way of “celebrating their incredible bond” with humans. The incident establishes exactly why real dogs and other animals don’t belong in films or on TV as well as the way their safety and well-being are sacrificed for ratings.
We’re hoping to hear that Amazon will find out why this situation was allowed to occur and put in place measures to ensure that nothing similar happens again for future programming.
May we please hear from you right away? Thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter.
Senior Manager | Animals in Film & Television
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Diane Haithman contributed to this story.