As evidenced by the HBO documentary Dealing Dogs, an “America Undercover” special which recently began airing on the cable network, sometimes things hit home harder if they are witnessed first-hand, rather than merely talked about. This is surely the case with Dogs, a 69-minute doc that’s brutal, graphic and heartbreaking all at the same time.

The documentary follows snippets of a six-month investigation in 2002 (and the subsequent actions) by an organization called Last Chance for Animals (LCA) into the inner-workings of the multi-acre Martin Creek kennel in rural Arkansas. The kennel, run by a shrewd businessman named C.C. Baird (who, as the viewer learns while watching the documentary, is also the lead minister at a local church), is also a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified “Class B” dog dealer.

Basically, this means that the USDA has licensed the kennel to obtain and sell dogs to veterinary schools and research labs throughout the country. Problem is, Baird’s kennel – which houses approximately 400 dogs at any one time – is supposed to be a clean, sanitary place where the animals are properly fed and cared for. This is not the case, though, with the Martin Creek kennel.

Instead of being properly sanitized and organized, the dogs are forced to live in their own feces, are mistreated by the employees, are not given necessary veterinary care, and, if a dog dies, that dog is dragged out of its overcrowded pen and taken out to a trench on the outskirts of the kennel property for disposal.

The visuals are disturbing, and all footage is via an undercover camera pinned to the outer shirt of “Pete,” a sunglasses and hat-wearing investigator for LCA who is sent to infiltrate the kennel. While working a low-level job hosing out the kennels for Baird, “Pete” is responsible for collecting, photographing and documenting evidence that LCA can match up to USDA violations so that the group can present a case to the authorities and have the kennel shut down.

Dealing Dogs is the collaboration of filmmakers Tom Simon (a seven-time Emmy winner) and Sarah Teale and is, in its entirety, a gritty look at one of the country’s biggest and most infamous “Class B” dog dealers. While it’s disheartening to see the dogs malnourished, beaten, bitten and left to die, it is the filmmakers’ passion to shine a light on this gritty truth that truly does the film justice.

Grade: B+