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Detroit Film Office Vetoes Discovery Channel Stray Dog Reality Show

By Jeff T. Wattrick For MLive.com

Detroit’s film office is nixing a reality show created for the Discovery Channel about the city’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.

There’s no doubt Detroit’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 Bing’s spokesman, Dan Lijana, says that’s not what’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,” says Lijana. “If 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.”

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 it’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.

There’s nothing wrong with attempting to film wildlife in its most natural, and sometimes brutal, state but cities aren’t really natural habitat for wild animals.

It’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 cinéma vérité?

Maybe it’s better to leave that question unanswered and leave stray dog documentaries to the old-fashioned humans-with-hand-held-cameras method.

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Viv
Viv
12 years ago

well they are better off belonging to Discovery Channel than going to the shelter to later be killed!

Christa_robbins08
Christa_robbins08
11 years ago
Reply to  Viv

Not really! If they go to the shelter, they have a chance to get a better life. If they are just allowed to roam the streets for Discovery to tape them, they will starve and might die a painful death. At least if they are euthanized in a shelter, it will be humane.

Luvdolfins27
Luvdolfins27
12 years ago

This is stupid…how about the Discovery Channel spend that money on coming up with a rescue, rehabilitation and adoption program for the Detroit homeless dogs rather than putting a camera on one and watching and waiting to see what happens. I understand that this series could bring awareness to the problem, therefore, creating a solution down the line, but it seems like a big waste of money to me where they could be putting that money towards fixing the problem now, not televising it and hoping people step up.

Terri Williams
12 years ago

This bit about offering food and caring makes a dog or cat yours and no one else’s responsibility does not help. These animals are SOCIETY’S responsibility. Society created this problem and it is EVERYONE’S job to make it better for the animals, pet lover or not. This pretending crap “oh it’s not our problem unless we feed it so we won’t feed it or care for it or help it or even acknowledge it so it exists on its own terms in its own world is horsepucky. Do we need any more awareness? Most of us who give a crap are painfully aware and do what we can to help. The rest aren’t going to be swayed by a tv show and probably aren’t educated enough to even watch Discovery anyway.I don’t agree with hassling dogs who are already stressed and strapping cameras to them. I don’t agree with spending time filming instead of helping either. It’s like those who videotape terrible events instead of getting involved and stopping matters. Put the camera down in this case and get that dog some food and shelter. And Detroit’s animal management needs to shake the dust off and implement some new changes in its community.

janet
janet
12 years ago

Maybe contact the new OWN network – maybe they could figure out the solution and get it on their network.

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