The American Humane Association is looking into the death of a shark during a K-Mart commercial shoot in Van Nuys. The animal safety representative noticed the shark was experiencing distress while on the shoot. The shark died shortly after it was transported to an aquatic facility. Jane Yamamoto reports from North Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 15, 2013.
Kmart is "saddened" by the death of a 5-foot shark that died after being put into a pool behind a Van Nuys home during the filming of a commercial for the discount retail chain.
A spokesman for Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart, issued a statement Friday after a flurry of media coverage about the death of the shark last week.
"We take this matter seriously and safety is always our paramount concern. We have been advised by our agency that the production company responsible for this shoot worked with professional animal handlers and a representative of the American Humane Association for the purpose of monitoring the shark’s welfare," said Sears Holdings spokesman Howard Riefs in the statement. "We are saddened by this incident."
The American Humane Association – which is in charge of protecting animals during filming and responsible for the "No Animals Were Harmed" certification listed in movies – meanwhile said an independent investigation will be conducted.
"Right now we have no idea why this animal died," Karen Rosa, who runs the association's film and television unit.
The animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, first drew attention on Wednesday to the incident.
"We feel that the shark should never have been used and that the conditions the animal was subjected to during the shoot were inhumane," said Julia Gallucci of PETA.
PETA said in an online post that the shark became stressed when actors jumped in the pool, but the American Humane Association, which had a monitor on the set, said no one went into the pool with the shark.
"The shark appeared to be healthy," Rosa said. "It was swimming around; that's all it was going to be asked to do … The animal was being treated very humanely. It was not abused, it was not neglected."
Rosa said the association's "certified animal safety representative" noticed that the animal was in distress and said it needed an immediate veterinary evaluation.
On Thursday, the association had issued a statement about the death of the animal, which had been shipped from New York to Los Angeles.
The white-tipped shark was injected with adrenaline and received oxygen after it showed signs of stress, according to the statement. The fish was later removed from the above-ground pool and transported to an aquatic compound, where it died that afternoon.
"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 association’s statement read. "The animal was never trapped and at no point was anyone in the tank with the shark. Nothing more was required of the animal."
PETA said it has sent a letter to Kmart asking it to stop using wild animals in ads, and a letter to the American Humane Association detailing an unnamed whistleblower's account of the death.
The whistleblower worked on the commercial, PETA said.
"Sharks are delicate animals who, in captivity, require a highly specialized and controlled environment," PETA said in a statement. "The noise and chaos of a commercial shoot is a very stressful environment for these sensitive animals."