Org finds ‘Flicka’ horse deaths accidental

AHA, city investigators reach same conclusion

The American Humane Assn. has concluded its investigation into the deaths of two horses on the set of Fox 2000 Pictures’ “Flicka,” calling both “unpreventable accidents.”

In reaching its conclusion, the AHA — the org responsible for monitoring the safety of animals in film and TV — also said the deaths “were not the result of any failure on the part of American Humane’s certified animal safety representatives or the production company’s failure to comply with American Humane’s ‘Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media.’ ”

The AHA said it had worked closely with Los Angeles City Animal Services, which conducted an independent investigation with the cooperation of 20th Century Fox; the city agency reached the same conclusions.

In a statement, American Humane Assn. marketing veep Sara Spaulding said as a result of the fatal accidents, “We are reviewing stricter protocols for horse action”; AHA also will require “an additional level of supervision when filming calls for intense animal action.”

On April 11, at Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, a “Flicka” horse broke its leg after a misstep. The second incident occurred April 25, at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center in the San Fernando Valley, when a horse tripped on its 13-foot lead rope and fell to the ground, instantly breaking its neck.

As a result, Fox 2000’s “Flicka” now can hope only to receive an AHA rating of “monitored acceptable” instead of the more-coveted end credit disclaimer “No animals were harmed.”

In its statement, the AHA said the “No animals were harmed” end credit “cannot in good conscience be given when an animal is fatally injured during production.”

(AHA end credit ratings are awarded only after all filming is complete, the final cut of the film is screened and on-set reports show all AHA requirements were met.)

On Tuesday morning the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals held a protest over the ruling outside the offices of the AHA’s film and TV unit, which was closed in anticipation of the protest.

Last week, PETA had pressed the AHA to rate “Flicka” as “monitored unacceptable” over the deaths.

“We don’t know why (PETA is) attacking us,” said Spaulding of the AHA. “We’re just as upset as PETA, and we’ve been nothing but transparent with the facts in this case.”