Updated at the bottom with a statement from Kmart and an assertion that PETA got it wrong. First posted at 7:09 a.m.

An independent investigation has been launched into the death of a shark that was being used for the filming of a Kmart commercial in Van Nuys, the American Human Association tells the Weekly.

PETA first revealed the death this week after whistle blowers let it know that the whitetip shark died in what AHA says was an above-ground, 60,000-gallon tank in Van Nuys that was set up as part of the commercial shoot.

PETA says the shark was flown in from New York …

… on March 6 specifically for the production.

The organization states:

Human actors repeatedly jumped in and out of the pool during the shoot, which likely caused the animal to stress.

PETA says it's “urging” Kmart to investigate the death.

The American Humane Association, which provides guidance to Hollywood for production involving animals, was on-set.

Jody Frisch, the organization's national director of public affairs, says the shark appeared to have fallen ill at a time when filming was not taking place.

She said an AHA observer noticed the shark was “showing signs of stress” and arranged for immediate medical attention, including the administration of oxygen and adrenaline, before it was transferred to a nearby “aquatic compound,” where it died March 7.


We have launched a third party independent investigation with an aquatic medical specialist.

She said there was “misinformation” being spread about the death — including that it might have happened during filming, which she says it didn't — and that “we don't have all the facts yet as to the cause of death.”

We reached out to Kmart for comment but had yet to hear back.

[Update at 11:44 a.m.]: Kmart sent this statement to the Weekly:

We take this matter very seriously: safety is always our paramount concern. Our agency and production company responsible for the shoot worked with professional animal handlers and a representative of the American Humane Association – which was responsible for monitoring the shark's welfare – was onsite during the shoot. The AHA says the animal was not being mistreated and steps were taken to ensure its safety on set. We are following up with our ad agency and the production company to find out why this happened so it doesn't happen again. We are saddened by this incident.

Another AHA official, meanwhile, reached out to refute PETA's claim that people were in the water. People were not in the water, the official says:

No one at all jumped into the pool. We would not allow that and it did not happen.

[h/t LAist].

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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