Judge Brett Cullum says this documentary isn't about those dogs who play poker.
The betrayal of man's best friend.
In 2002, an animal rights organization named Last Chance for Animals placed an undercover investigator into the ranks of a "Class B" dog dealer named Martin Creek Kennel in Arkansas. He went by the name of "Pete," and his mission was to collect hard evidence that the outfit was abusing animals, violating humane treatment laws, and selling stolen pets to researchers around the country. "Pete" was outfitted with cameras, audio recording equipment, and various spy paraphernalia to provide them with enough evidence to open a federal case against the kennel and incarcerate its owner, C.C. Baird. Dealing Dogs chronicles the six months "Pete" worked at one of the cruelest institutions for producing animals for vet schools and universities around the country.
Dealing Dogs is a brutal watch if you love dogs. It's full of disturbing images of death and abuse. It was produced for HBO for their America Undercover series. It's what you would expect from a documentary—jerky footage executed on the fly, and troublesome audio since most of it comes through a microphone inside a flannel shirt. There's also plenty of alternative sounding music to add to the drama of the proceedings, and no shortage of talking head interviews with animal rights activists.
HBO provides a solid DVD which contains the film with little embellishment or extras. The transfer is full screen, and as solid as it can be given the extreme circumstances of the source. Audio is provided in English or Spanish stereo, and although there are no subtitle options some are provided when audio gets rough. The film itself ties up the stories nicely, so no real need for a follow up or further look at what happened to the subjects. This is a bare bones affair, but would it be tasteful to do it any other way?
Dealing Dogs is going to appeal to animal rights supporters and dog lovers. It's not an easy watch, but it informs well about how animals are gathered for research purposes. It is a journey into a hideous operation, but ends on a hopeful note. Animal gore isn't too high, but there are several sequences in which we see them in pain or death. It's hard to believe people can do this to animals with no remorse, but the promise of money proves too seductive over morality and ethics. We never get to see what happens to the animals in research labs, but this look at them in purgatory waiting to go is enough to make you outraged. Dealing Dogs is a solid documentary that illustrates the evil men can do, even to trusting companions who can't speak for themselves.
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