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Dog Guidelines

8-0 American Humane’s Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media apply to anyone bringing an animal to the set, including members of the cast or crew. 

8-0.1* Per federal requirements, to exhibit a dog in filmed media, the owner or exhibitor is required to have a USDA Exhibitor’s Permit or to obtain an exemption from such permit requirements from the USDA prior to filming. (Also see the Advisory on USDA requirements in Chapter 3A, Reality Programming.)

8-0.2 For safety and efficiency, American Humane recommends that producers hire animal handlers experienced in motion picture production to supply all dogs for production. However, if production chooses to obtain dogs from private owners — including cast and crew — all requirements of the Guidelines must be implemented.

8-1* For all dogs (pets, dogs brought by extras or crew, and dog actors) on set, except for puppies under the age of 4 months, the following requirements apply: 

a. The dogs must have been vaccinated for rabies, parvo, distemper, bordetella and coronavirus at least two weeks prior to coming onto set. 

b. Proof of vaccination, including the name and phone number of the veterinarian who vaccinated the dogs, must be provided to the American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative upon request. 

c. American Humane may request health certificates, where applicable. 

d. Animal handlers (including cast, crew and extras) must bring the necessary documentation to the set. 

ADVISORY:  Animal handlers (including cast, crew and extras) should be aware of locations where ticks, fleas and mosquitoes are found and take appropriate measures, such as tick, flea and heartworm prevention, to prevent disease and intestinal parasites.

8-2* When filming scenes involving the birth of puppies or the use of puppies under the age of 8 weeks, prior written approval from the USDA and American Humane is required. Per the USDA, puppies may not be transported under the age of 8 weeks. (Also see Guideline 2-8.)

8-2.1 Only healthy puppies shall be used. When necessary, the filming location should be controlled by the following measures to prevent the spread of disease:

a. No other animals should be present when filming with puppies.

b. American Humane discourages the mixing of litters or puppies from different households.

c. Hard, non-porous surfaces that can be adequately sanitized should be used for puppies, and the surfaces should be sanitized prior to each such use.

d. Production and the animal handler should provide appropriate foot baths at the entrance of the set for all cast and crew entering the area.  

e. Production shall limit cast and crew in areas where puppies are being used.

f. Production and the animal handler shall limit the handling, petting and touching of puppies to only necessary individuals.

8-2.2 To protect the health and safety of puppies, American Humane recommends the use of puppies that are at least 14 weeks of age at the start of the filming process. Should younger puppies be requested, please contact American Humane for approval.

a. All puppies (brought by extras or crew, and dog actors) on set should have three sets of vaccinations and a negative test result (for such viruses addressed by the vaccines) two weeks prior to being brought on set.

b. Proof of vaccinations may be requested by American Humane.

c. American Humane may request a current report from the veterinarian to ensure the puppies’ health.

d. The health and vaccination reports are critical when mixing puppies from different litters.

e. For the health and safety of the puppies, the location should be controlled: no other animals present, preferably no mixing of litters, sanitized hard/non-porous flooring and/or surfaces, and the use of disinfecting foot baths, etc.

ADVISORY: Puppies being brought to the set should be examined by a veterinarian, be free of parasites, and have received core vaccines at 8 weeks of age, then once every three to four weeks until the puppies reach 4 months of age. After 4 months, dogs should be vaccinated once each year. The rabies vaccination is due at 4 months, then again within 12 months.

Although vaccinations help reduce the risk of parvo and other communicable diseases, parvo and others can still occur in vaccinated dogs. Puppies are more likely to develop severe disease and die as a result of parvo. Any puppies that show signs of illness shall be removed from the set and examined by a veterinarian.

8-2.3 Care must be taken to ensure that animals do not escape the set or location. Production and the animal handler must also have a safety plan in place that will prevent the escape of an animal from the set or location and provide for an animal’s safe recapture should an accident or escape occur. (Also see Guideline 1-36.)

8-3* Pursuant to USDA regulations, anyone who sells or acquires a dead dog or cat from a private, unlicensed source is required to obtain a USDA license (see Chapter 1) and provide that documentation to American Humane. 

8-4 When dogs are working with cats or other species of animals, in addition to production and the animal handler ensuring the safety of the animals, the dogs must be trained and prepped to work with the animals so that the work is not stressful. (Also see Guideline 1-28.2.)

8-4.1 When predator/prey relationships are to be depicted, animals must be trained or conditioned to accomplish the action, or the action must be simulated. Predator/prey situations can be a threat to one or more of the animals, as well as to the cast and crew.

8-5 Dogs that are underweight, overweight or otherwise not in appropriate physical or behavioral condition to perform the required work shall not be used. All animals must be of good working weight to accomplish the action required.

8-6 Care must be taken to protect an animal’s foot pads, as determined by the species of animal, to ensure that: 

a. Foot pads are not in direct contact with hot surfaces such as pavement, sand, concrete, etc.

b. Foot pads are not in direct contact with extremely cold surfaces such as ice and snow.  

c. Foot pads are protected from abrasive surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, stone, etc., which could cause injury. 

8-9.1 When applicable, producers shall distribute in advance the instruction sheet on “Special Requirements for Extras/Others Who Supply Animals.”

Although the special requirements apply to extras and owners, production is always ultimately responsible for the safety of the animals and people on the set. The needed precautions to ensure human and animal safety include: 

a. Water: Extras/owners shall bring a water bowl that is heavy enough to prevent overturning and large enough to satiate a dog’s thirst. Water should be available to the dog as needed.

b. Control: Dogs must wear collars and be kept on a leash at all times, except when being held in a secure pen, fenced area or crate. Dogs shall not be left unattended at any time. If a dog charges, threatens or bites any person or animal, it shall be removed immediately from the set and location. 

c. Proof of Vaccination: All dogs shall be licensed, and the owner must provide proof of licensing. Extras/owners must provide proof of the dog’s vaccinations against rabies, parvo, distemper, bordetella and coronavirus. Dogs must have received vaccinations at least two weeks prior to coming onto the set.

d. Dogs in Heat: Dogs should not be on set if they are in their heat cycle.  

e. Housing/Comfort: Extras/owners shall coordinate with production as to who will provide shade, crates and/or fencing for the dog. This should happen prior to the dog’s arrival on set. Improper chains and tethers are prohibited.

f. Oversight: Animals shall never be left unattended, attended by a person who is inexperienced in handling those types of animals, or unsecured in a manner that would be unsafe or uncomfortable for the animals.

8-10.1* Dog bites and dog attacks are becoming more common and are often severe. If a dog bite incident occurs on your set, production should take the following steps: 

a. A doctor should examine any dog bite to a person. 

b. A veterinarian should examine any dog bite to another animal. 

c. *Any dog bite that requires medical or veterinary attention shall be reported to the local animal control agency or public health  agency (as appropriate in the jurisdiction) and to American Humane. 

d. Production shall provide in writing the biting dog’s licensing and  vaccination information, and its owner’s name and address, to the  person bitten, the involved health agency and American Humane. 

* Notes a federal, state or local animal welfare statue, code or permit consideration.