In a depressed fog of judgment, due in part to cold medicine and sheer boredom, I recently decided to watch the HBO documentary Dealing Dogs. I love dogs. Dogs bring me joy, especially my own dog. If I could, I’d have a whole slew of dogs. I would love to rescue dogs. Heck, I would quit my job to run a no-kill dog shelter, if I could. Having a dog has truly opened my eyes to the wonderful world that is being a dog parent. Dog is love.
So an exposé documentary about the shady, backwoods dog-dealing industry wherein dogs – mostly beagles, mind you – are sold to clinical research labs for an incredible profit sounded like a good idea, seeing as I was in a drunken, hazy stupor of being sick. In retrospect, maybe not such a good idea.
An animal rights activist decided to go undercover to shed light on a notoriously inhumane Class B dog dealer in Arkansas. The dealer, known as C.C. Baird, bought dogs (some unwanted pets, some stolen from rich neighborhoods) for cheap, “sheltered” them on his property and then sold them into clinical research trials for a lot more money. The thing is, C.C. Baird was a businessman, not an animal lover. At all. He kept upwards of 600 dogs penned up at one time, most sick or near death, living in their own piss, shit and squalor. They did not receive proper vet care and in some cases, they were killed for no apparent reason other than having “behavioral issues.”
The activist, whose identity was shielded, got a job at the dog shelter by earning the trust of its owner and workers, bugged himself with cameras and microphones for audio and video proof of the cruel goings-on at the shelter, and had to pretend it was OK to be treating dogs like shit. This, all in the name of shutting down this dog dealer for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
The premise sounded great, at first. But watching Dealing Dogs was like watching Schindler’s List, but for beagles. What the undercover activist saw first-hand was absolutely horrifying. Dogs were dragged around by ropes, beaten if they misbehaved, dunked in chemical baths, and ignored if they were hurt, sick or injured. They were kept in small kennels with four other dogs, forced to fight for one bowl of food, and sprayed down with freezing water every day. When dogs were found dead, which was often, they were hidden underneath a sheet of plywood and eventually taken to trenches away from the property where they were mutilated and left to decompose among trash.