|Dealing Dogs (2006)
Director: Tom Simon and Sara Teale
Dogs are man’s best friend, but sometimes we do things to them that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. For every dog out there that’s in a loving home, who knows how many are slowly being killed by unethical sons of bitches looking to make a quick buck.
The unlucky dogs that are part of the latter group are the focus of “Dealing Dogs,” a hard-hitting and disturbing documentary that originally aired on HBO as part of their “America Undercover” series. “Dealing Dogs” follows “Pete,” an undercover investigator working for the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals as he works at the Martin Creek Dog Kennel, one of the largest “Class B” dog kennels in the country.
As the opening text scroll explains to us, researchers and other institutes buy their dogs from two kinds of kennels. The first are “Class A” kennels, who raise and breed their own dogs for sale. “Class B” kennels, on the other hand, buy dogs from dog pounds and other places and then sell them for a profit. It is often suspected by many animal rights organizations that some Class B kennels not only mistreat and abuse their animals but often buy stolen dogs illegally from less than scrupulous sellers.
It takes Pete about five minutes after getting a job at the Martin Creek Kennel to realize that both allegations are true. Outfitted with a hidden camera and wired for sound, Pete begins a six-month operation to document as much illegal behavior as possible in order to have the kennel shut down and shed light on the illegal operations that may be occurring at similar kennels across the country.
“Dealing Dogs” is a very hard movie to watch – especially if you love dogs. During Pete’s undercover investigation at the Martin Creek Kennel, he records shocking instances of animal abuse and cruelty that will make even the most jaded viewer cringe in disgust. The only thing more shocking than the graphic images of diseased and dying dogs, brutal and unnecessary euthanizing (by means of a gun to the head), and piles of rotting dog corpses is the fact that the people who work at the kennel seem to enjoy doing it. One particularly disgusting scene shows a worker at the Martin Creek Kennel tossing another deceased dog onto the pile while laughing and declaring it another “ex-dog.” By the end of the movie, you want to lock up the owners and operators of the Martin Creek Kennel in their own cages and have them shiver in freezing weather and wallow in their own feces and see how they like it.
It’s unfortunate that behind the strong and graphic imagery in “Dealing Dogs” lays a rather pedestrian and at times painfully clumsy documentary. The film inexplicably begins with a pointless scene of Pete getting ready for work, swearing the whole time. Other seemingly random segments involving the undercover agent looking for an apartment and talking to his superiors come off more like time killers. Not only that, the movie can be downright hard to watch after a while, not because of the subject matter (although that alone might do it for some people) but because it relies so much on clandestinely filmed shaky hidden camera footage that it might make you nauseous. I understand the importance of the footage they are showing, but there must have been better ways to present it that would lessen the chances of the film inducing motion sickness.
The movie also presents the whole issue of kennels and animal testing as a rather black and white issue, not showcasing other kennels that actually follow USDA guidelines (which would have been a good way to show just how bad the Martin Creek Kennel is by comparison) or inquiring as to where these animals are going once they leave Martin Creek Kennel. Did they ever try showing this footage to institutions that buy their dogs from Martin Creek Kennels? The kennels aren’t the only bad guys here, someone has to buy the dogs from the bastards knowing full well that they’re abusing and mistreating the animals.
For the most part, “Dealing Dogs” is a decent documentary whose good intentions make up for some lacking editorial expertise. If you care enough about dogs to rent or buy this DVD, you probably don’t need to see it; instead, it should be used to expose others who may not be aware of the problem in hopes of spreading awareness and putting an end to animal cruelty. If nothing else, it should teach anyone that sees it to keep a close eye on their dog, because they don’t want them stolen and taken to a place like Martin Creek Kennel – because places like that are hell on earth for dogs.
Bare-bones all the way, this HBO release doesn’t even feature trailers for other titles. Some information on Last Chance for Animals would’ve been nice, although the more I read about them on the internet, the less I liked them, so that might be why the chose not to include any.
~James B. Eldred