BIRMINGHAM -- Christopher E. Grimes originally declined a proposal to film a documentary on puppy mills because it had been done time and time again.
But when Chris Ksoll came back to him and explained that she wanted him to follow the money trail, he jumped at the chance and took his Chicago-based 5414 Productions team on the road.
The result is the 90-minute documentary “Dog By Dog,” which takes aim at large agriculture corporations and politicians that keep puppy mills in business. The film will be screened Sunday night at 6:30 in the IMAX Theatre at McWane Science Center, 200 19th St. North. Tickets are $25 each.
“We have to figure out a way to dry up the market,” Grimes said, adding that the easiest way to do that is “not help support” the puppy mill industry by purchasing a dog on the Internet or in a pet store.
“We are going to need to educate our way out of it,” he said.
“Let’s be honest: Dogs are like members of the family,” Grimes said. “It’s a different relationship than with a cow.”
Yet pork, beef, and poultry producers block legislation that would regulate puppy mills and require them to treat their dogs humanely. They do that by contributing to the trade groups that lobby politicians. It’s Dark Money –- funds donated to nonprofit groups that spend it on influencing votes. According to Investopedia.com, these groups can accept unlimited amounts of money without disclosing the donors.
“These corporations are not putting their names out there,” Grimes said. “If you hide behind a trade group, you keep people uninformed.
Companion animal breeding is considered agriculture, and that’s part of the problem, according to Grimes. For example, Grimes said, “Puppies are a cash crop for the Amish.
They sell them to make money. They would sell corn if corn sold better than puppies.”
He said this is true of most puppy mill operators, and now that the Internet is so easy to use, they have taken full advantage of it as a sales tool.
“These mother dogs are only useful for as long as they can produce puppies,” Grimes said. “When you buy a puppy online or in a pet store, you are supporting that practice.”
The crowd-funded “Dog By Dog” took Grimes and his crew through 19 states over a five-year period. “It was quite a journey,” he said.
In a telephone interview with Animal Advocates of Alabama, Grimes emphasized that this documentary does not focus on the horrors of animals living in squalid conditions in puppy mills.
“Some of the stuff is difficult,” he said, adding, “One of the challenges that we have with the audience is they’re afraid they’ll be horrified. If my mom couldn’t make it 10 minutes into my film without being horrified, I haven’t done my job of educating.”
Trailers for the documentary are available here.
Grimes also emphasized that he is not opposed to good small breeders who take care of their animals and know who is buying their puppies.
“There are very good small breeders,” he said. “They care about where their puppy goes to. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of breeding.
The documentary also targets the American Kennel Club for its weak inspection policies of puppy mills and for its lack of transparency in those reports.
“Those inspection programs are like a dog show itself.”
"Dog By Dog" will be screened at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11, at McWane Science Center, 200 19th St. North. Tickets are $25 and include a prescreening reception. Representatives of 5414 Productions and leaders of the Alabama Puppy Mill Project will conduct a question-and-answer session after the documentary ends. Purchase tickets here.