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Wranglers say 'Hobbit' animals died on unsafe farm

The Associated Press, Monday, November 19, 2012, 12:43am (PST)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Animal wranglers involved in the making of "The Hobbit" movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals, largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other "death traps."

The American Humane Association, which is overseeing animal welfare on the films, says no animals were harmed during the actual filming. But it also says the wranglers' complaints highlight shortcomings in its oversight system, which monitors film sets but not the facilities where the animals are housed and trained.

A spokesman for trilogy director Peter Jackson said Monday that the deaths of two horses were avoidable, but added that the production company moved quickly to improve conditions after they died. The spokesman says other deaths were from natural causes.

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