The American Humane Association (AHA) says it has enlisted an independent investigator to look into the death of a white tip shark that showed signs of distress while filming a Kmart commercial in Los Angeles on Mar. 6.
In a statement, the AHA said:
The shark appeared to be healthy upon our arrival and during filming, which involved only the animal swimming normally in a 60,000-gallon tank and exhibiting natural behaviors. The animal was never trapped and at no point was anyone in the tank with the shark. Nothing more was required of the animal. Later, when production was filming other scenes not involving the animal, the shark showed signs of illness.
The AHA on-set rep insisted the shark receive specialized aquatic veterinarian care, they say, adding that oxygen was pumped into the tank and a shot of adrenaline was given as an emergency medical procedure to try to stabilize before transfer to an aquatic center. The animal died the same day.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claim the shark became distressed when actors jumped in the pool and that they were notified of the incident by two on-set whistleblowers. AHA had a monitor on set and said nobody entered the pool with the shark.
On Thursday the animal rights group sent an appeal to Kmart to end the use of wild animals in ads. The organization cites "problems with using wild animals" as actors because of their "extremely specialized needs." Says PETA:
When used for entertainment, these animals are subjected to intense confinement and deprived of opportunities to express their natural behavior, which leads to intense psychological—and often physical—distress
A statement Friday from Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart, says the shark was not mistreated and that the company is following up with ad agency and production company contacts for more information. Said Sears Holdings spokesman Howard Riefs in the statement, "We are saddened by this incident."