The film, from Sandler's Happy Madison production company, will star Kevin James as an unlucky-in-love zoo worker who tries to win the affections of Dawson's character. It will feature a range of exotic creatures who provide advice, with voiceovers from Stallone, Cher and Sandler.
But bosses at PETA are furious about the decision to hire animal trainers from California for the shoot at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, Massachusetts - claiming the company has a history of neglect.
PETA officials say Gary Gero’s Birds & Animals Unlimited has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for “numerous animal welfare violations”, and have written to the actors in a bid to keep the animals safe on set.
PETA spokeswoman Amanda Schinke says, "We’re hoping to enlist the film’s stars to keep cruelty off the set. Exotic animals used as involuntary ‘actors’ are routinely subjected to rigorous and abusive training methods to coerce them into performing acts that are stressful, uncomfortable, confusing and even painful.
A rep for Gary Gero’s has hit back at PETA's claims, insisting the organisation has been misinformed: "When we did (1989 movie) Batman, PETA said our penguins should have been kept cold, they were from South Africa! They don’t do their research and there’s nothing that can be said to change their minds. We’ve been in the business 45 years, we’re highly respected. We know our animals are well-treated and well-cared for and we can sleep very well at night.
While Franklin Park Zoo boss, John Linehan, adds, "We have observed nothing but good care of the animals since they have been on site filming The Zookeeper at Franklin Park Zoo.”.