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Film Review: ‘Free Puppies!’ Shows You Where Your Rescue Dog Came From

First Run Features
First Run Features

I love dogs. Most of you know that by now. Hell, my dog Bentley is the Executive Vice President of Awards Radar. When I dated my ex, you probably saw more pictures on social media of her dog than of anything we were up to. All of this is to say that I’m a dog person. Cats are great too, but dogs are special. So, Free Puppies! is a documentary right up my alley. My pet is literally a rescue from the south, so watching a doc about how those puppies make it from there to here was fascinating to me. Having watched the film, I can’t report that it’s full of too much in the way of new information. I can, however, report that the movie has a big heart and is in service of an important issue, one that it handles with care. The more you love our furry friends, the more that this flick is going to leave a mark on you.

Free Puppies! is a slight documentary, but it’s going to work well for dog lovers, that’s for sure. The issues being discussed here range from spaying and neutering your pet (there’s actually a lot here on the impact of that, or the lack thereof), why strays are so much more prevalent in the south, and what goes into sending a puppy north, plus plenty more. It’s not done with a terribly large amount of style, but it is done with a lot of heart. Having an excess of the latter more than makes up for a dearth of the former.

First Run Features

The doc looks at dog rescuers in the south, helping to find homes for as many of our four-legged friends as possible. As we learn, thousands of dogs are transported each year from parts of the United States with high animal euthanasia rates, mostly in the southern United States. They’re sent to parts of the country with fewer unwanted dogs and plenty of adopters ready to give them a loving home. Following alongside dog rescuers like Monda Wooten throughout rural parts of the Georgia-Alabama-Tennessee tristate area, we’re shown firsthand what dog overpopulation leads to, including challenges, as well as some success stories.

We follow the rescuers as they work with the communities to try and find solutions. Some dogs obviously are not as lucky as others, but there’s at least one heartwarming moment to be found here. Mostly, it’s an on the ground look at what goes into a puppy going from a terrible situation to potentially your home.

First Run Features

Watching Monda Wooten and company in action gets a bit repetitive, but the genuine affection for animals and the desire to do right by them clearly comes through. That’s ultimately what matters here, making this worthy of being actually a documentary, as opposed to just an extended commercial for adoption,

Directors Christina Thomas and Samantha Wishman almost could use more dogs in their dog doc. It’s a slight miscalculation to spend as much time with the humans as they do, but it’s a small quibble. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of puppies in Free Puppies!, but the humans just aren’t nearly as interesting, truth be told.

Free Puppies! may be as glorified Animal Planet special, but there’s enough goodwill here to warrant a recommendation. Some of your enjoyment here will be based on how much you like watching the women in action, but in terms of cute puppy action, there’s more than enough to go around. If you like puppies and care about animal welfare, this is worth checking out.

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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