One might expect "Shelter Dogs" would appeal only to PETA and pet lovers, but engrossing pic, winner of top awards at the Director's View and Newport fests, has plenty to say about society in general, with moral issues getting more complicated, not less. Pubcasting and cable beds are assured, but this should keep them panting at docu fests for quite some time.

One might expect “Shelter Dogs” would appeal only to PETA and pet lovers, but engrossing pic, winner of top awards at the Director’s View and Newport fests, has plenty to say about society in general, with moral issues getting more complicated, not less. Pubcasting and cable beds are assured, but this should keep them panting at docu fests for quite some time.

Cynthia Wade’s heartfelt, surprisingly suspenseful pic tracks a year in the life and occasional death of some very special canines. The pups at risk end up at an extremely humane site, the Roundout Valley Kennels, in upstate New York. There, a group of women work tirelessly to place troubled animals in caring homes before the clock runs out. Group is led by unflappable Sue Sternberg, who admits to having “an extra dog gene” and, indeed, is seen as having primary relationships with critters, not people. Her judgments of the animals coming in — for biting their owners or other canine crimes — are extremely shrewd. In a harsh seg, one troubled dog is put down, but it’s exhilarating when some seemingly hopeless cases get saved.

Shelter Dogs

Production

A Red Hen Prods. (Brooklyn) production. (International sales: Films Transit Intl., Montreal.) Produced by Cynthia Wade, Heidi Reinberg. Executive producer, Sheila Nevins. Coproducers, Matthew Syrett, Susan Berry. Directed, written, by Cynthia Wade.

Crew

Camera, (color-BetaSP) Wade; editor, Geof Bartz; music, Mark Suozzo, Simon Gentry. Reviewed on videocassette at Vancouver Film Festival (Nonfiction Features), Oct. 1, 2003. Running time: 70 MIN.

With

Sue Sternberg.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more