sun 22/09/2019

Going to the Dogs, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Going to the Dogs, Channel 4

Going to the Dogs, Channel 4

Man's best friend sought in not very friendly Birmingham locations

Presenter Dylan Duffus (without disguise), looking for a man about a dog

Two years ago Penny Woolcock was at the heart of Birmingham street gangs in her documentary One Mile Way; that one was titled after the fact that two of the city’s competing outfits were separated only by the distance of the film’s title. In Going to the Dogs, she's back in the same 'hood, this time investigating the city’s dog-fighting scene, with the help of one of the earlier film’s lead protagonists, Dylan Duffus, who proved here a very able narrator-presenter.

Tracking down, and ensuring the cooperation of the participants for Dogs… looked like it proved more challenging. No surprise when dog-fighting has been on the statute books as a criminal offence since 1835 (despite the statistic reported here, that it’s up by 400% in recent years). So Dylan (the unmasked one, main picture) was in search of “a man, who knows a man, who knows a man”, about a dog.

The one main OTC (off-the-chain) fight that was recorded wasn’t that lurid

Which made disguise a crucial element in the presentation of those whom they managed to find who were ready to talk to camera, first among them the appropriately named “El Primo”. He was disguised not only in a balaclava, but with creepily slow voice distortion that made him seem he was from another, extra-terrestrial world.

All too terrestrial this experience was though, even if our perspectives on its surroundings were largely shot at night – how else do you give a pit bull his daily exercise, six miles a turn, and even have him pulling his master (on a bicycle) up hills for stamina-building, except under the cover of darkness? Actually, there was an alternative: 20-minute turns on a canine treadmill (yes, really).

Channel 4 kept a certain degree of vigilance to keep Going to the Dogs from advance critical eyes, but the result wasn’t as remorseless as might have been expected. The one main OTC (off-the-chain) fight that was recorded wasn’t that lurid: the usual, expected audience (gamblers obviously, too) of around 40 reached barely a dozen, deterred by the presence of cameras. A second fight never happened, given that one main prize-fighter dog (“the Russian”) had been apprehended by police and put down before that stand-off could take place. (A detail that certainly challenged our perception of what was actually “humane” in this equation.)

Any owner who went in for alternative methods, like electric shocks or drowning, was a 'cruel bastard'

Instead, we had owners detailing the closeness of their relationships with their dogs – how the canines “repped” their masters, in rather the same way that gang allegiances are predicated on loyalty. And pit bulls are more loyal than humans. Actually, El Primo reckoned that in decades of dog-fighting experience, from perhaps 600-700 fights he’d only seen about three that ended in fatality. The film went in for Brechtian-style inter-titles, and in the one titled “The Killing” we heard instructions on the only way to “fix a mash-up dog”, ie. put it out of its misery – a hefty injection of anaesthetic. Any owner who went in for alternative methods, like electric shocks or drowning, was a “cruel bastard”. Which also left you thinking about Duffus’s and his pals’ approach to what they admitted they thought was morally wrong. If you’re watching it live, it’s horrible, but watch it on Youtube (we saw clips from Kashmir, where dog-fighting is legal), and it doesn’t hit you the same way. Apparently.

You wondered whether it was the lack of actual fight sequences that prompted Woolcock to broaden her subject towards wider concepts of mankind using animals for sport, image, or assertion of authority. Cue rather abstract cross-comparisons, from the likes of “Legal Scholar” and “Historian”, on the relative merits of rearing animals for meat, or using them for sport (the number of race-horses shot after injuries on the turf probably exceeds the annual number of dogs killed in fights).

Which brought it all back to one of Woolcock’s more telling themes, class. It was hard to find much humour in Going to the Dogs, but when we came up against the juxtaposition of the crew – Duffus and his fellow Birmingham sound-recordist – and some hoorays (“The Sportsmen”) out shooting posh birds, it was certainly there. Relative values again: from the braying shooter we got the distinction between shells (for war) and cartridges (“for partridges”, ho-ho). But the best line came from the Birmingham side, “First time I’m standing by a live shot-gun, and there’s no crime in it.” Woolcock got close to her mark here, but finally, somehow, didn't hit it.

Disguised not only in a balaclava, but with creepily slow voice distortion that made it seem he was from another, extra-terrestrial world

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Comments

Going to the Dogs the programme about dog fighting. WHAT COWARDS THESE BOYS ARE! They are so scared they dare not show their faces and even have their voices changed. What complete little bitches they are! If they want to show what tough guys they are they should fight each other, not get dogs to do it for them. Women have more balls then these boys. Absolutely no respect for them at all.

proper disgrace! should never have been aired! poor dogs man :(

Disgraceful documentary, justifying and glorifying this "sport". This is not sport, it is barbaric animal abuse. The men taking part should not have had anonymity, they should be prosecuted, imprisoned and barred for life from keeping any dog. How about a documentary about what the police and animal protection societies are doing (or not doing) to eradicate this shameful non-sport.

Channel 4 should hand over all the footage to the police. Did they give the police the names of the dog fighters involved in the programme? If not they are as vile as the scum who participate in this disgusting animal abuse. The channel's hit an all time low airing this programme. First time I've ever complained to offcom.

I find it very disgraceful for this show to be aired, when in reality channel 4 are promoting dog fighting and some could say encourages others to this type of behaviour. Dogs have a bad stigma already attached to them and to view a show like this is simply not about entertainments its all about the ratings. There is a petition online with over 21,000 people signing it to have this programme cancelled! Channel 4 simply ignored the public's comments! The show is animal abuse and the activity in it is illegal!!

vile cowards, feel so so ashamed to be a human, and more than that, a british human, I was hoping our society was more intelligent than all this. Penny should go to jail I she doesn't hand over details to the polce

Disgusting. It just seemed to glamorise the whole dog fighting! These poor dogs get a bad name and it's the owners who need put down. As an owner of this breed of dog, I know they are loving, loyal and very trusting dogs. Poor things. My heart breaks.

I feel theses people should be exposed and felt with by the law they are sad and dangerous people who shouldn't be allowed to be in the public also they should be killed it makes me feel sick to no a human being could wacth such a horrible act i have two sons and i must say if i found out in any way they were involved i would shop them myself

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