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Have you ever loved a dog? If you have, I’m begging you to see this film.

“Dog By Dog” isn’t a heartwarming collection of rescue stories, although rescue certainly is at its core. The film was written and directed by Christopher E. Grimes, who also helmed the terrific “For My Wife” and “A Second Knock at the Door.” The movie examines efforts to tighten regulations on commercial dog breeders, whose facilities are known as “puppy mills,” where breeding dogs live out their lives in neglect and squalor.

It might surprise you to learn that Iowa is one of the states with the most puppy mills. Legislators, volunteers and people associated with various animal-welfare organizations discuss why it is so hard to regulate breeding facilities and to pass legislation to protect the dogs.

Debbie Hill, with the Humane Society of Missouri, says 2 million to 4 million dogs are born in puppy mills every year. These dogs are not pets, says Hill, who emphasizes that the animals are breeding stock, kept in chicken-wire crates stacked on top of each other. That’s where we see them: tails wagging, barking for attention, in the cages as they react to the presence of a film crew.

Nicole Marino, who bought a dog online, talks about meeting the man who sold her the dog. “He opened his van, and there were crates of puppies in the back,” she recalls.

The little dog soon became violently ill, and Marino was surprised to find out just how sick he was.

Among the others interviewed is rescuer Joe Lackey, who talks about the dogs he rescues that often are covered in waste and fleas. Still, he likes to hold them and pet them. “They’ve never been touched. I want their rehab to start as soon as we take the dogs,” he says. Sometimes he loses sleep when he thinks about the dogs left behind. “You can’t save them all,” he says. “Mills are legal. And I think a lot of people don’t understand that.”

The film follows a trail of money and political influence to demonstrate why legislation supporting better care of animals in puppy mills has been defeated.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, talks about how pet stores play a major part in puppy mills: Most of the puppies that come from large-scale mills are sold in pet stores, he says.

You’ll see protesters at an Iowa pet shop who urge other people to “adopt, don’t shop,” and you’ll learn about an Ames-area organization called “Bailing Out Benji” (for details visit that creates awareness of animal-related issues.

The movie is a call to action.

Sit. Stay. And then do something.


Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.