PROFILE: American Humane
Founded in 1877, American Humane, formerly known as the American Humane Association (AHA), formed when organizations in ten states amalgamated to promote the humane treatment of children.
But from the start, the AHA also fought to improve the lives of animals living and dying on America's farms.
Committee to investigate the treatment of animals in hollywood
The AHA first began keeping a watchful eye on Hollywood during the mid-1920s. The organization set up a committee to investigate the treatment of horses in westerns and biblical epics, like Ben Hur.
Public and official pressure to protect animals on movie sets grew even more pronounced following the production of The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1936. Lead actor Errol Flynn publicly complained that at 25 horses had been killed during the climactic battle scene.
A screen shot from Jesse James, depicting the infamous scene where a horse was killed jumping from a cliff.
The AHA has been on movie sets in the United States since 1940. Their monitoring activities arose from the uproar caused by the death of a horse in the movie Jesse James. The horse was killed after a stunt man rode it off a cliff into a river.
Hollywood films unmonitored for fourteen years
The AHA lost its access to film shoots in 1966, when the Hays office, the movie industry's self-regulating body for standards, closed down. This time of unmonitored use of animals lasted for fourteen years.
Since 1980, the AHA's Film and Television Unit is the only animal protection agency recognized by the Screen Actor's Guild to monitor film sets. The unit also monitors commercials, television shows and music videos.
Rating: No Animals were harmed
Film-set monitors are given training by American Humane experts on how to oversee animal welfare during productions and how to apply the organizations guidelines. Sets that meet the guidelines receive American Humane's "no animals were harmed" rating, which has become a well-known part of the credits at the end of a movie.
Karen Rosa, executive director of American Humane's film and television unit says her association's monitors have made a huge impact on film sets.
Last year, AHA monitored 1000 productions in the U.S. and internationally. Monitors spent nearly 5,000 days monitoring film locations.
The AHA applies a multi-tiered rating system on how well animals were treated on the set.
The AHA publishes an 83-page guide for the care and safety of animals on the set. Film monitors are given classes on how to apply the guide.
The bulk of American Humane's funding comes from the Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund, which is controlled by trustees from the Screen Actor's Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. American Humane insists the financial input coming from motion picture producers to the Cooperative Fund, does not influence how they monitor films.
Is American Humane too close to the entertainment industry?
However, critics point to the rare use of the unacceptable rating by American Humane as an example of how the organization often sides with studios when an animal is hurt or killed during protection. American Humane says the small number of films that are rated unacceptable shows their work with filmmakers is paying off in how animals are treated on sets.
Critics point to the 1999 movie, The 13th Warrior and the 2005 film, Flicka as examples where horses were killed, yet American Humane decided not to impose its harshest rating.
A screen shot from the rodeo scene in Flicka where trainers lost control leading to the death of one horse.
Los Angeles City Attorney Robert Ferber, whose jurisdiction includes animal protection for Hollywood, complained that when he learned of the death of two horses on the set of Flicka, American Humane refused to cooperate with his office.
"We in law enforcement hear about this movie and the scenario and we want the evidence," Ferber told the fifth estate's Bob Mckeown in an interview. "American Humane is wait a minute, we have this relationship. If we turn over the evidence to you, it jeopardizes our relationship. We may never be allowed on a movie set again."
Karen Rosa, executive director of American Humane's film and television unit, says she does not recall Ferber trying to get information about the Flicka disaster from her office.
"I don't believe that's true," Rosa told Bob Mckeown. "We would have no reason to deny him any information."