By Jeff T. Wattrick For MLive.com
Detroitâ€™s film office is nixing a reality show created for the Discovery Channel about the cityâ€™s stray dogs.
Jan. 13, Detroit Free Press: Mayor Dave Bing’s film office has denied the cable network permission to film stray Detroit dogs, chronicling their miserable lives for a TV series called “A Dog’s Life” — even after the $1.4-million project qualified for a $559,361 tax credit from the Michigan Film Office.
Besides using crews to film the dogs, the project would attach small cameras to the animals to capture Detroit life from a dog’s-eye view.
Thereâ€™s no doubt Detroitâ€™s stray dog problem is a compelling issue and blocking a filmmaker the right to document it reads like a First Amendment violation.
But Dave Bingâ€™s spokesman, Dan Lijana, says thatâ€™s not whatâ€™s happening here.
“Stray dogs are a public safety issue, because at the point that they do not have homes, they become the City’s responsibility,â€ says Lijana. â€œIf the city is aware of the location of stray dogs as we would be if a camera was attached to them, we have a responsibility to contact Animal Control and take them off the street. Putting a camera on a stray dog and letting it run wild through the city would be irresponsible and we can’t approve that.â€
He has a point. Attaching cameras to the dogs, raises a number of ethical and legal questions.
If a Discovery Channel production crew captures a dog and attaches a camera to it, is that dog really still a stray? Or is it a work animal belonging to the Discovery Channel?
If itâ€™s the latter, then the production crew is (or should be) responsible for its care and feeding and, probably, liable for anything it does to people out on the street.
Tim Treadwell excepted, most people older than six understand that wild animals fight for survival every day and that can be a brutal thing.
Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with attempting to film wildlife in its most natural, and sometimes brutal, state but cities arenâ€™t really natural habitat for wild animals.
Itâ€™s one thing to attach a camera on a lion and track it on the savanna. Hooking up a camera to a hungry dog and letting it run around the east side is a just recipe for disaster.
What happens if that dog mauls a kid? Is that criminal negligence or a brilliant bit of cinÃ©ma vÃ©ritÃ©?
Maybe it’s better to leave that question unanswered and leave stray dog documentaries to the old-fashioned humans-with-hand-held-cameras method.