Shelter Dogs is a provocative and heartrending look at the complex issues surrounding animal sheltering through the tale of one shelter and its staff. This feature length documentary takes the viewer into the gray zone of the national animal welfare system where quality-of-life issues take center stage.
At the heart of the documentary is Sue Sternberg, an animal welfare pioneer who has created Rondout Valley Kennels, a model animal shelter in Upstate New York. At Rondout Valley Kennels, dogs live in suites decorated with rugs and chairs. They listen to piped-in music and receive training. Each dog is carefully assessed and temperament tested. If a dog is mentally deteriorating in the shelter or shows aggression, Sue will euthanize the dog, believing that it is a more humane option than a lifetime in the shelter.
As Sue agonizes over each animal, faces rising debt, and becomes increasingly worried, the audience is given a first-hand look at the difficult ethical choices shelter staff face every day. The result is an unprecedented view of animal sheltering in the United States.