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HBO presents

Dealing Dogs (2006)

"My job is to document violations of the Animal Welfare Act at C.C.'s kennel, to be handed over to the USDA with the goal of getting the kennel shut down, and C.C.'s licenses revoked."- "Pete"

Stars: "Pete"
Other Stars: Chris Derose, Doll Stanley-Branscum, Ron White, Steve Krollpfeiffer
Director: Tom Simon, Sarah Teale

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic scenes of abused and/or dead animals)
Run Time: 01h:09m:35s
Release Date: 2006-10-10
Genre: documentary

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Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Keep the kiddies away because this isn't a cute little documentary about poker-playing pooches. Far from it, actually. It's a rather disturbing made-for-HBO doc about an undercover operative for the animal rights group Last Chance For Animals, and his hidden camera exploits to try and get a large USDA-licensed kennel shut down for reasons of abuse and neglect, among other charges.

"Pete"—not his real name, apparently—lands a job at Arkansas' rural Martin Creek Kennel, a dirty, overcrowded Class "B" dealer, which we're told means they're licensed to sell dogs to research labs and veterinary schools. "Pete" outfits himself with hidden mikes and cameras, and after convincing the suspicious kennel owner that he's not part of an animal rights group, spends six months in 2002 documenting the ugliness that took place there. At one point "Pete" refers to Martin Creek as a "little piece of Hell on Earth", and from what we're shown that seems like a grand understatement.

The footage gathered is pretty grim and heartbreaking, made all the more horrific by the callous attitude of the kennel operators, who clearly treat the dogs like product. We know they will be sold to labs and vet schools, so it isn't like they're waiting to be adopted by a loving family, but accusations are raised that Martin Creek Kennels knowingly purchased and sold dogs from questionable "bunchers", who instead of raising the dogs themselves (as the USDA requires) are believed to have picked up stray family pets as part of their furry product line. The scenes at the dog flea market spell that out pretty clearly, as do some hidden camera revelations from the wife of a notorious "buncher".

Call me a softie, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a little misty-eyed here, and a couple of moments in particular are really difficult to shake. There is something of a payoff to the investigation—and some may consider it either harsh or justified—but there is still those disturbing visuals that I just can't get out of my head. There is less PETA-style sermonizing than I was expecting considering an animal rights group was at the center of this, and the arguments over whether or not the people at Martin Creek abided by USDA regulations never really seems in question.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.33:1 fullframe, the quality here reflects the whole undercover aspect of the production, so the grainy look of much of the doc is unavoidable and to be expected. Colors for the non-undercover bits look marginally stronger, and as a documentary the look of this one easily falls within acceptable limits, given the conditions.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The principle audio track is a frills-free 2.0 stereo blend, and the only time this sounds especially deep is during the music beds. Much of the audio was recorded using "hidden" mikes, so the quality is understandably a little coarse, but the presentation is consistently clear, no matter what the conditions. A few burned-in subs are provided for the occasional scene where filmmakers considered the clarity sketchy, but even those seemed clear.

A Spanish 2.0 dub is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras at all, with the feature cut into 6 chapters.

Extras Grade: F

Final Comments

Tough to watch but emotionally compelling, Dealing Dogs takes on a very ugly topic with a minimum of preaching. The undercover footage is often brutal to look at, so consider yourself warned.


Rich Rosell 2007-01-18