A PETA US undercover investigation into Atlanta Film Animals (AFA) – a business that trains and provides animals for the film, television, and advertising industries – has revealed what happens behind the scenes. Workers used antiquated training methods, such as denying cats and other animals food; deprived elderly pigs of veterinary care; and warehoused dogs in cold, barren kennels.


“Fucking whore!”

“She’s a total bitch.”

AFA has provided animals for major studios, including Disney, Netflix, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. A worker crudely referred to Cookie – a 60-year-old cockatoo who had plucked her own chest bald due to severe anxiety and the stress of near-constant confinement – as a “fucking whore” and a “total bitch”. In nature, cockatoos fly many miles a day and spend most of their time foraging for berries, seeds, and nuts with their flock, but AFA denied Cookie the opportunity to fly, socialise freely, or partake in other natural forms of behaviour.


AFA’s trainers’ credits include films such as Cruella, Lady and the Tramp, Where the Crawdads Sing, and Strays and television shows like Will Trent.

If ‘You’re Not Hungry, You’re Not Gonna Work’

AFA staff routinely deprived animals of food to prepare them for roles in productions. A worker said that AFA restricted food for cats named Barnaby and Zeppelin while training them for the television show Will Trent because if the cats weren’t “hungry”, they were “not gonna work”. She explained that trainers wouldn’t feed dogs in the morning if they planned to train them that day, “because you want them to want something”.

A supervisor said that trainers “basically starve” birds. Trainers were obsessed with keeping animals, including skunks, at the “right” weight so that they’d be hungry enough to perform for food.

A worker said that the company restricted this cat’s food while “training” him and his lookalike for the television show Will Trent, explaining that if the cats weren’t “hungry”, they weren’t “gonna work”.

AFA Left Dogs in the Cold and Kept Cats Crated

A 13-year-old dog named Frankie – who was apparently used in the film Strays – was blind, deaf, and suffered from heart failure. But rather than allowing him to spend his golden years in a comfortable home with a loving family, AFA kept him and other dogs in an unheated garage like unused props, even as temperatures dropped as low as 2°C. Two other dogs were left outside overnight, when the temperature dropped to -10°C – one with only a single blanket (which may have become wet and frozen).

AFA reportedly obtained a dog named Winnie from a shelter to use her in productions, including a touring show of Annie, a musical in which dog Sandy is the title character’s best friend. However, off stage, Winnie was left outside all day in a barren kennel – a far cry from the love and warmth Sandy enjoys.

Staff routinely crated a cat named Shiva all day, sometimes with a filthy litterbox and vomit on her blankets. They kept tabby cats Snap, Crackle, and Pop in metal crates when they weren’t being trained to perform tricks.

Birds Stressed From Head to Toe

A supervisor said that Cookie – a 60-year-old cockatoo previously used in a Universal Studios theme park live-action show – plucked her feathers out due to the anxiety of being moved from place to place. Despite her obvious mental distress and her featherless chest, neck, and legs, AFA staff kept her in a barren cage, often with only a single toy. A worker called Cookie a “fucking whore” and a “bitch” and said that she had punished Sherlock, another cockatoo, by leaving his food within sight – but out of reach – for hours.

Many chickens – who were kept in a barn stall that often went uncleaned and that a worker said was “drenched” every time it rained – had scaly legs and feet, some of which were swollen and even bloody. The worker said the chickens had leg mites and bumblefoot, a painful infection caused by bacteria found in wet, dirty bedding, but that they had not been seen by a veterinarian.

A supervisor said that Cookie – a 60-year-old cockatoo – plucked her own feathers out due to anxiety.

Many chickens had scaly legs and feet, some of which were swollen and even bloody. A worker said they had leg mites and bumblefoot and that they hadn’t been seen by a veterinarian.

Same Old Suffering

AFA is a branch of Birds & Animals Unlimited (BAU), operated by Hollywood animal trainer Gary Gero. In 2016, PETA US investigated BAU and found animal suffering and deprivation nearly identical to that at AFA, including pigs with untreated illnesses, cats virtually starved for roles, animals relegated to filthy enclosures, and dogs kept in cold, barren kennels.

It’s time for studios, producers, and audiences to realise that off set, animals used in productions aren’t cuddling on the couch with their trainers. Instead, those found at AFA and BAU were deprived and imprisoned. This is the reality of Hollywood for animals.

You Can Help Stop Animals From Being Used in Film and Television

Speciesism – the oppressive belief system used to justify the exploitation of animals – lies at the heart of this horrific suffering. You can help stop this by never buying a ticket to a film that exploits animals and taking PETA’s anti-speciesism pledge.