In a new documentary, set to be released this year, a Chicago filmmaker explores the role of money and politics in creating and supporting the nation's puppy mill industry and thwarting efforts to improve conditions for thousands of breeding dogs who spend their lives in misery.
In "Dog By Dog," filmmaker Chris Grimes, turns his lens on commercial breeders, politicians and advocates - and at least one journalist to probe the question of how puppy mills continue to thrive despite overwhelming public opposition.
"I wondered how the guys in overalls were able to mount such opposition," said Grimes in an interview Monday. "So we decided to look at the guys in suits to see how they blocked efforts to fight puppy mills."
Pennsylvania - once known as the puppy mill Capital of the East and still the home of scores of commercial kennels- is featured prominently. Highlighted in the film is the work and words of anti-puppy mill advocate and rescuer Bill Smith of Main Line Animal Rescue, Sarah Speed, the Humane Society of the United States' Pennsylvania director, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Bob Baker, now executive director of Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, who fought for tougher laws in Pennsylvania for more than three decades - and me.
"In other states, like Washington and Missouri we focused on agriculture committees [in the legislatures] and we focused on lack of enforcement in Pennsylvania," said Grimes.
Grimes also managed to get a sit down interview with Chester Gipson, the powerful head of the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that oversees licensing and regulation of commercial breeders. You will not hear from the American Kennel Club, the nation's largest and oldest breed registry, which denied repeated requests by Grimes for an interview.
Grimes said he is still working on securing distribution for his film and is exploring many platforms including cable and Internet, but also hopes to partner with local groups and plans theater releases in Pennsylvania and around the country as early as the spring.