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American Humane’s General Guidelines

The guidelines in this chapter apply to all animals, without regard to their prominence or insignificance to the production. Later sections include additional specific guidelines by species. 

Many of these guidelines are simply common sense; others have evolved from federal, state and/or local laws, regulations and ordinances. All local, state and federal laws, regulations and ordinances are applicable and can override these guidelines if they are more stringent. 

American Humane’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives will monitor productions to determine if the following standards of humane treatment are met. American Humane field personnel are trained and experienced, and they shall be considered a part of a production’s safety team, ensuring a collaborative effort for the safety and welfare of the animals.

If, upon review of the script, American Humane believes there to be any dangerous animal action, American Humane will strongly encourage simulating the action through the use of computer-generated images (CGI), animatronics or fake animal doubles to minimize the risk of injury to animals. 

Before Filming Begins

1-1 American Humane field personnel shall be granted access at all times to animals present at the filming location. Inspecting the animals is an important factor in documenting a production’s care and treatment of the animals.

1-2* Production Advisory: 

a. Production should only use animal handlers who are knowledgeable about the species of animal to be used and familiar with set protocol. (Also see Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Safety Bulletin #6, “Animal Handling Rules for the Motion Picture Industry,” paragraph 2.)

b. Animal handlers shall be properly licensed through all appropriate agencies (e.g., USDA, state) with regard to the ownership, exhibition and release of animals and have all the required current health certificates. (Also see Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Safety Bulletin #6, “Animal Handling Rules for the Motion Picture Industry,” paragraph 4.)

c. A sufficient number of adequately trained animal handlers, as determined or agreed to by the American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative, must be used to protect the cast, crew and animals. 

ADVISORY: American Humane recommends that personal pets not be brought to filming locations. This recommendation applies to extras, crew, cast, visitors and anyone on the set. Also see Chapter 3 of these Guidelines.

American Humane encourages productions to request USDA inspection reports from owner compounds and training facilities prior to contracting their animals for production, and to reject those suppliers who have recent and/or repeated incidents of animal abuse and/or neglect or other USDA violations related to animal care and treatment. 

1-2.1 American Humane recommends that productions be proactive when choosing times or seasons in which to film with animals. American Humane recommends:

a. Not filming during extreme hot or cold weather, as temperatures may become an issue of safety and/or welfare of animals.      

b. Filming scenes in early morning or late afternoon during times of extreme heat.

c. Filming scenes during the warmest part of the day during periods of extreme cold. 

d. Limiting rehearsals and takes.

e. Having a means to provide shade, shelter, and heat and/or cooling for animals.

1-3 American Humane staff, animal handlers, production company staff and veterinarians (when appropriate) should communicate and collaborate regarding the care and management of animals during preparation, rehearsal and filming. When changes are made, all relevant parties listed above shall be informed immediately. (Also see Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Safety Bulletins.)

1-4* All animals are to be transported safely, humanely and in accordance with applicable laws. In certain situations, the USDA’s transportation standards may apply, and compliance will be required by American Humane personnel.

1-4.1 After traveling, animals should be allowed adequate time to rest and acclimate prior to beginning work, as determined by the American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative.

1-5. When live animals are purchased or leased for a scene (e.g., hamsters, goldfish, baby chickens) and are later returned to the seller or owner or are adopted at the end of filming, a receipt or other documentation must be submitted to American Humane indicating that the animals were returned or received in good health and condition. Production and/or animal handlers shall exercise care in ensuring that animals are placed in appropriate adoptive environments. 

1-6 Animals should never be left unattended or unsecured in a manner that would be unsafe or uncomfortable for the animals. Animals shall not be left in the care of any person who is inexperienced in the proper care of the animals.

1-7 No alcohol shall be used around animals at any time. (Also see Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Safety Bulletin #6, “Animal Handling Rules for the Motion Picture Industry,” paragraph 14.)

1-8 Only animals that are in appropriate condition to work shall be used. 

a. Animals that are underweight, overweight or otherwise not in appropriate physical or behavioral condition to perform the required work shall not be used. 

b. An animal shall not be used if, in American Humane’s judgment, the animal is not in appropriate condition. 

1-9 Animals shall be trained and prepared in advance to perform the required action.  

a. American Humane will have any animals removed that are not trained, prepared and conditioned to perform the required animal action.

b. American Humane shall monitor the pre-production training and conditioning of animals as a means to determine their appropriateness for use in filming. It is the responsibility of the production and the animal handler to contact American Humane, in pre-production, of the type and scope of any and all pre-production training and conditioning of animals. 

c. Animals that will be working with any other animal and/or species of animal shall be given appropriate time to acclimate to each other and to the film environment.  

d. If American Humane determines that there has not been an appropriate amount of time for acclimation between animals and species prior to filming, American Humane may request that scenes involving different animals be filmed separately.  

1-10 Nothing shall be done to an animal that will cause harm or permanently alter its physical characteristics.

Housing and General Care

American Humane’s Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media apply to anyone bringing an animal to the filming location, whether the animal is working or not. When personal pets are present, or when using private-party animals, see Chapter 3 of these Guidelines.

1-12 Animals coming from different facilities and/or locations must be housed in such a manner as to prevent sickness and the spread of disease.

1-13 When animals coming from different facilities and/or locations will be housed together, they must be properly acclimated and introduced to each other under supervision to prevent any stress or injury due to compatibility problems.

1-14* All animals must be maintained in facilities that provide proper humane care for each species of animal. American Humane will determine whether facilities for shelter and protection are: 

a. Safe from sharp objects that may cause injury 

b. Temperature-controlled when necessary for the health or comfort of the animal

c. Well-ventilated 

d. Located in an area that minimizes stress

e. Kept in a sanitary condition

f. Constructed to prevent escape

*In certain situations, the USDA’s temporary housing standards applicable to traveling exhibitors may apply. 

NOTE: Also see Chapter 8, Species-Specific Guidelines, for additional requirements. 

1-15 All animals — including any background, unscripted animals and animals privately owned by cast or crew members — must be provided with the following, both on and off camera:  

a. Adequate water at the filming location and on set.

b. Appropriate protection from the sun, cold, rain, heat, snow and other elements.

c. Observation for physical and behavioral changes that indicate discomfort. 

d. When necessary, shelter, warming tents, fans, misters, wind-breaks, etc.

Loose, Stray, and/or Feral Animals at a Film Location

1-16* When loose, stray or feral animals appear at a film location, production must immediately notify the appropriate animal control agency, area animal shelter or appropriate wildlife departments. 

a. At no time shall an actor, crew member, extra or guest remove, take or relocate an animal. The federal Animal Welfare Act, as well as most local animal agencies, prohibits this practice. Local animal control agencies are best equipped to find the owner or place the animal for adoption.

b. It is production’s responsibility to ensure the safety of natural animals in the filming area and to consult the agency or persons responsible for the removal of wildlife from location sets. Any such animals that remain on the set are subject to American Humane’s Guidelines. If native animals are not to remain on the set, they must be carefully removed, relocated, properly housed, cared for and then safely returned to their habitat after filming. 

c. When filming in a location where wildlife may appear naturally, film crews shall not interfere with such wildlife in any way and should involve American Humane during that filming. 

d. Wildlife must not be manipulated for filming purposes. Wildlife in most instances is protected by state and federal laws. Animals may be filmed documentary-style while in their natural habitat, but should not be frightened, corralled, chased or otherwise manipulated for the sake of filming. 

e. NEVER TOUCH OR HANDLE WILDLIFE! Wild animals are not trained animal actors and are not familiar with humans. Wild animals are known to carry diseases that can affect other animals as well as humans. 

NOTE:  Also see Wildlife Guidelines in Chapter 8.

Animal Substitutes, Dead Animals, Animal Parts

1-17 American Humane encourages the use of animal substitutes for live animals when scenes call for the depiction of dangerous action. Fake animals, dead animals (or animal parts), animatronics, CGI or other techniques used to simulate live animals shall be documented with photographs and receipts. This applies whether the simulations are provided or acquired through a service (e.g., CGI), a prop rental or purchased as a food product. When appropriate, documentation to American Humane should include the name of the technician and the vendor company supplying the product or service, and/or any additional pertinent information. 

1-18 If dead animals or animal parts are purchased from or provided by a taxidermist, an animal shelter, a slaughterhouse, a food supplier or another source, American Humane must be provided with documentation that demonstrates that the animals were destroyed in the normal course of the source’s operations and were not killed for the production. 

1-19* When finished filming dead animals or animal parts, production shall immediately dispose of them sanitarily by cremation or appropriate burial. Most states have laws regarding the disposition of dead animals. Production must check with the appropriate agency in the filming area for proper procedures. 

1-20 When handling dead animals or animal parts, care shall be taken to prevent the spread of illness and disease. Personnel shall wash their hands with soap and warm water or an antibacterial agent after handling the dead animals or animal parts. 

During Filming

1-21 American Humane recognizes that unique or unforeseen situations may arise that might require on-site judgment differing from these Guidelines. American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives will make that judgment in the interest of the safety and welfare of the animals. 

1-22 American Humane must witness all filming with animals in order to properly document their use. 

a. Production shall provide the American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative(s) adequate placement during filming in order to witness all animal action. 

b. In certain circumstances, this may include having access to a monitor and/or a production radio or other means of viewing the animal action as it takes place.

1-22.1 Production shall provide American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives with two-way radios for the following: 

a. During intense animal action, including stunts and filming of horse racing, rodeo or other intense animal action.

b. If the film set is so large that American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives do not have a clear view of the entire area.

c. When helicopters and insert vehicles are used during filming.

d. If a large group of animals is being used. 

1-23 When any person hears the words “Unauthorized Shot” from an American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative, production must stop and fix the problem prior to filming. Otherwise, the production is at risk of being liable and not earning the “No Animals Were Harmed”® end-credit disclaimer.

1-24 As part of standard practice, the production and animal handler shall notify American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives of any changes in animal action as soon as a change is made.

1-25 American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives are the animal’s voice, are present for animal safety, and must be consulted and included in any and all safety meetings. Safety meetings will include all relevant cast and crew. 

1-26 When animals are on set, production shall proceed in a timely manner.  Most accidents and misbehaviors occur when the animals get tired of waiting for filming to begin. 

1-27 American Humane will closely monitor environmental conditions when there is a potential for severe weather (e.g., thunderstorms, lightning, high winds, hail, tornadoes, flash flooding, blizzards). In certain circumstances, American Humane may ask production and the animal handler to take steps to protect the animals and potentially remove them from the set. (Also see Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Safety Bulletin #38, “Guidelines for Inclement or Severe Weather.”)

1-27.1 Animals should never be left unattended or unsecured in a manner that would be unsafe or uncomfortable for the animals. Animals shall not be left in the care of any person who is inexperienced in the proper care of the animals.

1-28 There shall be no fighting between animals. Aggressive animals must be isolated and/or removed by production from the filming location.

1-28.1 All animal fights (such as dog, bull and cock fights), hunting and fishing scenes, and scenes depicting the death of an animal must be simulated.

a. No real animal fight may be disguised as a simulated fight by the use of muzzles.

b. Aggressive animals shall be isolated and/or removed from the filming location by production. 

1-28.2 When predator/prey relationships are to be depicted, animals must be trained and conditioned to accomplish the action, or the action must be simulated.

a. No animal shall be put under stress or in danger when used to attract the attention of another animal being filmed. 

b. Predator/prey situations can cause safety issues, put animals under stress, and be a threat to other animals, cast and crew.

1-29 Adequate exercise and rest, as determined or agreed to by the American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative, shall be provided for the animals during the shooting day. All animals shall be given rest equal to or greater than their time working on set. 

1-30 Each animal’s needs must be addressed individually, considering such factors as the species, age and condition of the animal; the exertion required to accomplish the action; and the terrain, climate and weather conditions. American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives and the animal handler will observe and monitor the animal’s respiration rate and behavior. If an animal becomes fatigued or stressed, a rest period shall be provided before proceeding with additional takes. American Humane will have animals removed that do not appear fit. 

1-31* No animal shall be allowed to become overheated, hypothermic or put at risk in any way. American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives will closely monitor animal action for any breach of the federal Animal Welfare Act or state and local animal cruelty laws and regulations. Any violation will be reported to local law enforcement by the production and American Humane. 

1-32 Care must be taken to protect an animal’s foot pads, as determined by the species of animal. This includes ensuring 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.

1-33 Animals must be checked daily for injury and/or illness. 

a. If an animal is injured, sick or becomes incapacitated, it shall receive immediate medical care. 

b. Lame or ill animals may not be used and may not resume work until the condition has been corrected, as determined by the veterinarian. 

c. If veterinary care is required, the veterinarian shall assess the extent of the injury and send a copy of his or her report to American Humane. 

d American Humane staff may accompany the animal to the veterinarian’s office and remain until a diagnosis/prognosis is made. 

e. Sick animals must be isolated from other animals on the set and will not be permitted to work. 

f. When possible, sick animals shall be removed from the set. 

NOTE:  Also See Chapter 2, Veterinary Care Guidelines.

1-34 Animals with mechanical (i.e., non-painful) limitations or defects that give the visual appearance of lameness or injury may be used only if a veterinarian has examined the animal, determined that using the animal in the manner intended will not cause pain or stress, and provided American Humane with a letter certifying that the animal is serviceably sound. 

1-35 Animals shall not be allowed to escape the set or location. 

a. Production and the animal handler must have a safety plan in place that will prevent the escape of animals from the set or location.

b. Production and the animal handler shall also have a safety plan in place for an animal’s safe recapture, should an accident or escape occur. 

c. American Humane must approve the above safety plans prior to filming. The requirements of those safety plans shall be determined by the training, conditioning and preparation of the animals, and if the animals used are restricted, loose or liberty animals.  

d. RESTRICTED ANIMALS are any animals whose movements are limited or confined, and for which a safety plan is in place to prevent their escape. Restricted animals include, but are not limited to, animals working in an area that has boundaries or is enclosed. Animals restrained by fencing, crates, leashes, hobbles and waist-ties are also examples of restricted animals. Animals that are ridden or harnessed and controlled by experienced animal handlers are also deemed restricted. Animals shall be trained and conditioned to the type of confinement used.

e. LOOSE ANIMALS are any animals that have limited to no training; are not under the direct, hands-on control of an animal handler; and/or are not restricted or confined. Without any physical type of confinement, loose animals can be reasonably expected to leave the filming location or deviate from the intended path. Loose animals shall require clearly defined, detailed safety plans for prevention of escape and for their safe recapture, and those safety plans must be approved by American Humane prior to filming.

f. LIBERTY ANIMALS are any animals that have received special training and which are not confined nor are their movements restricted, and they are not under the direct, hands-on control of an animal handler. Liberty animals are controlled by the use of signals or commands such as voice commands, visual cues (hand signals), or a combination of both, and can be reasonably expected to stay at the filming location. American Humane shall require safety plans for these animals based on the type and location of filming, especially if the action to be performed is deemed intense; takes place in populated areas or where roads, highways or cliffs are located nearby; when special effects, noise or visual stimuli are present; when liberty animals are working with other animals, etc. 

1-36 A sufficient number of adequately trained animal handlers, as determined or agreed to by the American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative, must be used to protect the cast, crew and animals. 

Training and Cueing Equipment

1-37 Training and/or cueing equipment such as collars, leashes, muzzles, whips and other devices must be used safely and humanely under the supervision of American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives. The use of nails, tacks, screws or other sharp instruments for training or cueing an animal are prohibited.

1-38 The use of electric stimulation devices such as electric collars and/or prods are not permitted by American Humane as a humane training device and are not permitted during performance. However, should the safety of an animal be better served by the use of a remote-command device, particularly when livestock are used in remote locations, that device and its use must have prior approval by American Humane and be supervised by American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives. 

ADVISORY: *In some areas, the use of prods and other electric stimulation devices is prohibited by law.

1-39 When cueing an animal to get a reaction shot, only noise or visual stimuli shall be used. At the American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative’s discretion, the least amount of noise or visual stimuli should be used to get the desired reaction. 

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