Americans have always had a love affair with canines, but lost amidst the pampering are unpleasant truths about dog ownership, care and commerce. One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss and Betrayal offers an eye-opening, three-part portrait of America’s complex relationship with dogs.
"Part One - Fear": In the opening segment, Dr. Robert Taffet is taken to court by neighbors after several bite incidents involving his Rhodesian Ridgebacks in suburban New Jersey. Despite the severity of some of the incidents, he is deeply committed to his pets and wins his cases, including one in which a piece of a three-year-old girl's ear was bitten off. Eight months later, after the same dog bites a teenager, Dr. Taffet puts him down.
“Part Two – Loss”: The second section focuses on people coping with the loss of beloved pets. This segment features a group of mourners sharing deep grief over recently deceased dogs in a pet-loss support group at the San Francisco SPCA; two women laying their dog to rest in the oldest pet cemetery in the U.S.; and a couple attempting to replace a beloved dog by cloning him. Also featured is Julie Adams, whose own love and loss of dogs has inspired her rescue work; with no shelters in her rural area, she’s taken it upon herself to care for and shelter more than 100 stray and abandoned dogs.
“Part Three – Betrayal”: The final section explores issues of overpopulation, shelters, rescuing, spaying and neutering. Approximately two million dogs are destroyed in animal shelters each year. This segment features three minutes of graphic footage shot by a film student showing dogs and puppies being euthanized.
Many people do not know that 25% of dogs in shelters are actually purebreds, and many pet store dogs come from mass breeding operations known as puppy mills. For many dogs from mills and animal shelters, rescue is the only hope of survival. This segment follows volunteers saving some 200 puppy mill dogs from these dire conditions, including rescuer-trainer John Gagnon, who rehabilitates aggressive, difficult-to-adopt dogs and works with an organization to find them good homes, and Shawn South-Aswad, who raises money to rescue dogs and place them with foster families.
One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss and Betrayal is produced by Ellen Goosenberg Kent; supervising editor, Geof Bartz, A.C.E.; co-producer, Larissa Bills; directed by Jenny Carchman, Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Amanda Micheli; editors, Geof Bartz, A.C.E., Joe Beshenkovsky, Seth Bomse, Traci Loth; producers, Larissa Bills, R.J. Cutler, Julie Goldman, Allyson Luchak, Amanda Micheli, Danielle Renfrew Behrens; inspired by the book “One Nation Under Dog,” by Michael Schaffer. For HBO: supervising producer, Lisa Heller; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.