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Animals can add a great deal to a production, but we have moral and ethical responsibilities to keep in mind when employing non-human actors. The filmmaker is responsible for the welfare of non-human members of the production as well as the human members.


Before you write an animal into your script give it careful consideration. Is it necessary? Will you have the time? Animals (even trained) are unpredictable.

Productions involving animals are listed as excluded activities under Pepperdine’s insurance policy and require underwriter approval and additional insurance coverage. In order for you to receive permission to use animals in your production you will need to satisfy the following:

  • Notify Production Operations as soon as possible.

  • Complete and submit the “Request to Film with Animals” form.

  • Hire a Professional animal trainer or handler to be on set. This hired professional must provide evidence of worker’s comp insurance and must be properly licensed and have all required current health certificates.

  • Submit all proof of insurance paperwork for Animals required for Production.

  • Allow at least two weeks for this process as our insurance underwriters will need to approve.


The use of exotic animals is not permitted in student productions. These include, but not limited to lions, tigers, bears, snakes, alligators, leopards etc. While they may be “trained” to some extent, they remain dangerous and unpredictable.



The American Humane Association has been protecting animals used in films since 1940. They not only publish guidelines for the use of animals in films, they also monitor sets where animal activity takes place. AHA representatives make sure that facilities where animals are housed are cared for during production; that props and sets, costumes and special effects all make the animal’s well-being their top priority.

You must follow the AHA Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Entertainment


This is the person who teaches the animal the behavior that will be required on cue when the camera rolls. This can be a time-consuming process depending on the nature of the trick or behavior itself and the type of animal being trained. Even a dog walking across a room requires training.


It is the responsibility of the Assistant Director to coordinate the use of animal actors with the Trainers/Handlers; Directors; Cinematographer and the rest of the production team. The A.D. must have a working knowledge of the rules that apply to the use of animals and a realistic assessment of what can be expected. The animal handing rules safety sheet should be attached to the call sheet and can found on this link

The Animal Handler should meet with cast and crew to inform them of the safety procedures during the safety meeting.

Do not feed, pet, or play with any animal without the permission and direct supervision of its trainer. Defer to the animal trainers at all times.


  • American Humane Association Guidelines apply to all animals used in a production, including animals used as background or off-camera to attract attention of another animal being filmed.

  • No animal will be killed or injured for the sake of a film production. This includes any animal removed from its natural habitat and put into a stressful situation (i.e. removing a fish from a bowl or tank and placing it on the floor to achieve “flopping fish.”)

  • American Humane Association will not allow any animal to be treated inhumanely to elicit a performance.

  • Documentary-style footage / stock footage acceptable to American Humane Association mission cannot include scenes that represent actual harm to an animal, even if filmed as non-fiction “newsreel” footage. Such harm, although possibly historic, is considered exploitation of the animal’s suffering for the sake of entertainment. Any scene depicting harm must be simulated.

  • Animal waste/excrement must be removed and transported from set.

  • Filmmaker must provide a safe place for the animal to eat and rest on set.

  • Animal Handler must be present at all times.

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