"Dog by Dog" documentary spreads awareness city by city

Jason Addy
York Dispatch
  • Dog by Dog will be screen at the Forum Auditorium in Harrisburg at 1 p.m. Sunday.
  • Tickets are on sale for $8. Proceeds benefit local animal shelters and the production of Puppy by Puppy.

A Chicago filmmaker is hoping to set tongues wagging in the state capital this weekend when he screens his documentary about puppy mills and commercial dog breeding.

Libre and Janine Guido. (Photo courtesy of Dillsburg Veterinary Center)

"Dog by Dog" will be shown at 1 p.m. Sunday in Harrisburg at the Forum, located at 500 Walnut St., where local puppy-star Libre will take a triumphant return to the spotlight with film director Chris Grimes.

Staffers at the Dillsburg Veterinary Center treated Libre, a Boston terrier, after he was found on the verge of death at an Amish breeding farm in Lancaster County in July. Center veterinarian and owner Dr. Ivan Pryor gave Libre 24-hour care, taking him home at night and over weekends during the critical period after his rescue.

Libre has spent the last five months recovering with Janine Guido, founder of Speranza Animal Rescue in Mechanicsburg, who took him to the Dillsburg Veterinary Center.

Libre is now in his forever home with Speranza Animal Rescue founder and owner Janine Guido.
(Photo courtesy of Speranza Animal Rescue)

After the screening, Grimes will moderate a question-and-answer session with panelists, including Pennsylvania Humane Society Director Kristen Tullo and Amy Worden, press secretary at the state Department of Corrections.

"Dog by Dog" was filmed in 19 states over a five-year period, following the money trail from puppy mills to pet stores and online sales, Grimes said.

The film focuses on three major states for puppy breeding — Missouri, Iowa and Pennsylvania — and covers people from a broad range of backgrounds, from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, to a 23-year-old woman in Ames, Iowa, who protests outside a local pet shop every weekend, Grimes said.

Though Grimes originally said no to the idea of filming a documentary about puppy mills, he said the idea that politicians and legislatures are not looking at an obvious issue such as “dogs in chicken cages” made him reconsider.

Spreading the message: Grimes said he tried to keep graphic images of animal abuse out of the film so as to not scare people away from its message of education and spreading awareness about commercial dog-breeding.

“You can’t blame people if they don’t know. We’re not out to demonize the public,” he said. “I personally believe people want to do the right thing, or else I wouldn’t have made the film. I believe that people want to do the right thing as long as you reach them and tell them ‘This is the problem.’”

Over the last year and a half, the film has been screened 35 times to about 4,000 people in the United States and Canada, while British lawmakers got a special screening in Parliament last December, Grimes said.

The documentary is scheduled for release to the general public in February, and Grimes said he hopes to maximize its reach to educate millions of people about puppy mills in the first few weeks.

"Puppy by Puppy": Grimes has already started filming on a complimentary documentary for teachers to show in their classrooms called "Puppy by Puppy."

The 40-minute documentary will be aimed at educating children ages 4-12 about commercial dog breeding, as “children play a large part in the buying decision of bringing a puppy into the family,” he said.

Grimes said he wants to show children, in terms that aren’t graphic, that even though puppies look cute behind pet-shop windows, there is a story behind those dogs that almost always involves their mothers being locked in cages for breeding.

Though Pennsylvania can drastically improve its enforcement of existing dog-breeding laws, knowledge is the key to changing the lives of millions of dogs that are forced to breed, he said.

“I really think that when you show (people) this is how this all works, that’s when they get a sense that we can do so much better than this for these dogs,” Grimes said.