"Show Dogs," the children's film that this week was criticized by an advocacy group over scenes that it said promoted an inappropriate and harmful message about sexual abuse, will undergo edits to remove the objectionable content, the studio said Wednesday.
"Responding to concerns raised by moviegoers and some specific organizations, Global Road Entertainment has decided to remove two scenes from the film 'Show Dogs' that some have deemed not appropriate for children," a statement from the studio said. "The company takes these matters very seriously and remains committed to providing quality entertainment for the intended audiences based on the film's rating."
The company added: "We apologize to anybody who feels the original version of 'Show Dogs' sent an inappropriate message."
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) took aim at "Show Dogs" because it claimed certain scenes normalized "unwanted genital touching to its child audience," according to a statement from the group released on Tuesday.
The organization added that the film, about a Rottweiler police dog who tries to infiltrate the world of dog shows, sent a "troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse."
NCOSE, an anti-pornography organization formerly known as Morality in Media, specifically took issue with what it said were "multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected," said the group's executive director Dawn Hawkins.
Hawkis said the scenes showed the dog was uncomfortable with this but "told to go to a 'zen place.'"
"Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children -- telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort," Hawkins said. "Children's movies must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say 'no' and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching."
Global Road Entertainment, which co-produced and co-financed the film with Riverstone Pictures, initially issued a statement explaining that examinations were common practice in dog shows but apologized "to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film."
One of film's two credited writers, Max Botkin, denied involvement in crafting the controversial scenes, telling CNN that while the film was based on his original script, he was not part of the rewriting process, which involved 12 uncredited writers.
"I absolutely condemn any suggestion or act of non-consensual touching in any form, as well as disassociation as a coping mechanism for abuse of any kind," he said in a statement. "I understand and empathize with the parents' and groups' concerns regarding the message the movie may impart."
The revised version of the film will be available for viewing nationwide starting this weekend.
"Show Dogs" opened in theaters May 18 and has grossed almost $7 million domestically.