Toronto, ON (July 24, 2023) – ACTRA Toronto is pleased to release its Best Practices for Working with Animals guide, designed to improve workplace safety on set.
The Best Practices for Working with Animals guide was created to assist performers and productions by ensuring the most positive and creative interactions when working with animals.
“Animals are not props. They don’t have a gas pedal or batteries and they can’t be propped-up in a corner until you need them. They feel, breathe and bleed, just like us. It takes incredibly dedicated people to properly care for them in the very chaotic world of film,” says ACTRA Toronto President David Gale. “Like any role in the production process, certain precautions and guidelines need to be in place to ensure a safe space for all. Animals need to be trained by professional Animal Wranglers, not just for their health and well-being but for the success and safety of any set and scene in which they are appearing. The new guidelines help ensure production and performers know what considerations are required to create a positive environment when working with animal actors.”
“We are very proud to be a part of developing these Best Practices for Working with Animals guidelines alongside other members of our Community,” say Rick & Sue Parker, Animal Trainers/Coordinators, veteran Stunt Performers/Coordinators, ACTRA Toronto Stunt Award winners, and pioneers in the Animal Wrangler community. “This historic approach, with the enthusiastic support of ACTRA Toronto President David Gale, ACTRA Toronto Council and staff, is an important step forward to help productions with this multi-layered process that involves not only the actors, but every department on set.”
Rick continues, “working with animals on set is virtually a twin to the work done by members of our Stunt Community. Both are vital to the success of a script coming to life creatively and, most importantly, for the safety of every performer and crew member on and off set and that begins with experienced Stunt and Animal Coordinators.”
Mark Schneider, a long-time film animal trainer and ACTRA stunt performer/rigger, says, “What you don’t see is that most of the work done by Animal Coordinators, Wranglers and Trainers happens 24/7 and 365 days a year. It’s kind of like an iceberg in that you only see the pretty part on top. That majestic horse, keen dog, fierce cat or any other animal on set comes from somewhere and someone who provides constant food, shelter and training to make sure animals are cared for and prepared for what they are asked to do in our industry. It has taken a lot of time, effort and thought to get to where we are now in developing these Best Practices for Working with Animals. There is always room to make things better, but the collaboration that has been done from different perspectives will be a great benchmark to hold.”
Passionate about safety on and off set, Kirk Jarrett, ACTRA member, and Stunt and Animal Coordinator and Trainer, says “all of this takes time and financial investment. Days with animals can be incredibly long. Imagine if you had to rise very early to not just ready yourself, but also to feed, water, clean and prepare to transport animals and equipment to set, usually from considerable distances. Fatigue is a serious concern.”
Added Rick: “Working creatively and safely begins with the Animal Coordinator and we are very grateful to ACTRA Toronto for its support. Like stunts, film and television are just plain better with animals performing alongside our actors!”
The guide outlines key roles and responsibilities of Animal Coordinators as well as includes health and safety considerations, steps to create an animal action plan and a list of frequently asked questions.
ACTRA Toronto is the largest organization within ACTRA, representing over 15,000 of Canada’s 28,000 professional performers working in recorded media in Canada. An advocate for Canadian culture since 1943, ACTRA is a member-driven union that continues to secure rights and respect for the work of professional performers.
Media contact: Karl Pruner, Director of Communications, 416-642-6726, firstname.lastname@example.org