The Dog Lover Movie. A Heartwarming Tale of Compassion and Connection


The Dog Lover is a 2016 American drama film directed by Alex Ranarivelo and starring Allison Paige, James Remar, and Lea Thompson. It was released in theaters on July 8, 2016 by Freestyle Releasing. The movie is about a young college student named Sara Gold (Allison Paige) who goes undercover to expose an illegal puppy mill run by a charismatic dog breeder Daniel Holloway (James Remar).

The Dog Lover was the directorial debut for Alex Ranarivelo and also featured Tom Arnold and Michael Welch in supporting roles. It received mixed reviews from critics and was not a significant box office success, grossing just $2.5 million against a $2 million budget. However, the film did spark discussion about puppy mills and animal rights. It tackles the timely issue of large-scale commercial dog breeding operations that value profits over humane treatment of animals.

The movie aimed to shed light on the cruel practices within some dog breeding facilities and the need for greater regulation and oversight. While not necessarily a critical success, The Dog Lover brought an important real-world issue to the big screen and expanded the conversation around protecting man’s best friend.


Plot Summary

sara going undercover at the holloway dog breeding facility.
The Dog Lover follows Sara Gold, an aspiring animal rights activist and college student who goes undercover at a dog breeding farm run by the Holloway family. Sara poses as an intern to investigate allegations of animal abuse at the farm. The main characters are Sara and the Holloway family, including patriarch Daniel Holloway, his wife Susan Holloway, and their teenage son Tommy Holloway.

Sara’s goal is to uncover evidence of animal cruelty and shut down the dog breeding operation. The Holloways aim to defend their business, which they claim is humane and lawful. The central conflict arises as Sara gathers footage and documentation pointing to abuse, while the Holloways assert they treat their dogs properly and care for them. As her investigation progresses, Sara uncovers inhumane practices like overbreeding, cramped cages, lack of veterinary care, and unsanitary conditions. However, the Holloways insist they run a professional breeding business, not a “puppy mill.”

The story builds to a climax when Sara’s undercover investigation is exposed. The Holloways accuse her of trespassing and actively working to undermine their business. Sara escapes with video evidence revealing animal neglect and stands by her findings. Though it threatens her academic career, Sara presents her full report exposing mistreatment and calling for the breeding facility’s closure.

Behind the Scenes

The Dog Lover was inspired by true events surrounding a 2015 raid on an Iowa dog breeding facility conducted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The film’s writers and producers aimed to shed light on puppy mills and animal cruelty through a dramatic fictionalized account.

casting actor allison paige to play lead role of aspiring activist sara gold.

For casting, Allison Paige was selected for the lead role of Sara after an extensive search. The actor who played Daniel Holloway, James Remar, has been active in animal rescue and promoting pet adoption for many years. Additionally, many of the dogs featured in The Dog Lover were actual rescue dogs.

An interesting production fact is that the film was primarily shot in Utah rather than Iowa where the story is set. The remote ranch that stood in for the Holloway breeding facility was located outside of Salt Lake City. Filming took place over the course of several weeks in the fall of 2015.

Overall, the creation of the film involved substantial research into commercial dog breeding and animal welfare issues. The filmmakers consulted with the HSUS to portray puppy mills and activist raids in an authentic manner. However, the story ultimately takes creative license by fictionalizing characters and events.

Critical Reception: Reviews, Awards and General Critical Consensus

The Dog Lover received mixed reviews from critics. Roger Ebert gave it 2.5 out of 4 stars, calling the film “as subtle as a sledgehammer” but appreciating its good intentions and message. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 48% approval rating based on 23 reviews, with the consensus stating it “means well, but The Dog Lover is a frustratingly clumsy fictionalized dramatization of a real-life animal rights issue.”

While some praised the film for tackling an important topic, many reviews criticized the simplistic storytelling and uneven tone. The story was seen as too black-and-white in its portrayals of animal rights activists as unquestioned heroes and dog breeders as one-dimensional villains. However, Allison Paige and James Remar’s performances received some positive notes.

The Dog Lover did not receive any major award nominations. It was also not a significant box office success, earning just $2.7 million against a $1.5 million budget. Overall, the film brought attention to puppy mills but failed to make a real critical impact.

Audience Reception

The Dog Lover received very mixed reactions from audiences. On Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score is just 45% based on over 1,000 user ratings, with an average rating of 2.5/5. Many viewers felt the movie was poorly made and too heavy-handed with its message.

mixed audience ratings on sites like rotten tomatoes and imdb.

On IMDB, The Dog Lover has a user rating of 4.8/10 based on over 4,500 user reviews. One user review states “In this movie, the big bad national animal welfare organization loses, the dog breeder loses, the dog lover loses and worst yet, the dogs lose. This topic is too complex for such a simplistic and silly story.” (Source)

Reviews on Common Sense Media were more positive. The movie has a 3.5/5 rating based on over 120 parent reviews. One parent wrote “I rated it 8 and up because the killing of the dog that was attacking the little girl could be scary for some younger kids. The bottom line is that this movie sends a message that breeding dogs for profit alone is wrong.” (Source)

On social media, reactions were polarized. Some viewers praised the movie for exposing puppy mills, while others felt it relied on stereotypes and exaggerated depictions. Overall, the audience reception was mixed, with many feeling the execution was lacking despite agreeing with the overall message against unethical breeding practices.

Themes and Analysis

The Dog Lover explores several themes related to animal rights and the ethics of dog breeding and commercial pet stores. One major theme is the tension between animal welfare and profits in the pet industry. The film portrays the mistreatment of dogs in puppy mills and suggests that greed leads some breeders and retailers to prioritize money over humane conditions for the animals. This ties into the theme of exposing an ugly truth behind a seemingly harmless practice. At first, the main character Sara believes pet stores simply connect dog lovers with the puppies they want. The film reveals the cruelty involved in mass-scale dog breeding and aims to educate viewers on commercial pet sales.

On a deeper level, the story explores broader questions about the status of animals in society. The film implicitly argues that dogs deserve protection from abuse and suffering, just as humans do. This message ties into the theme of defending the vulnerable. The animal rights activists in the film feel compelled to be a voice for dogs who cannot speak up for themselves. Overall, The Dog Lover uses an emotional story to make a case for more ethical treatment of man’s best friend.

Cinematically, the movie employs elements of suspense and thriller genres at times. Sara’s undercover investigation has hints of mystery and danger as she secretly gathers evidence at the puppy mills. The risks she takes and roadblocks she faces make the truth more difficult to uncover. The film also uses graphic imagery of suffering dogs to portray the cruelty and elicit an emotional response. Despite these darker elements, the story ultimately has an uplifting tone with a message of hope at the end.

Impact and Legacy

The Dog Lover has had a significant cultural impact, shifting public perceptions about animal welfare and inspiring legislative changes. According to the Audubon Society, the film brought awareness to the plight of shorebirds who were being threatened by unleashed dogs on beaches.

“The movie highlighted how uncontrolled dogs on beaches can disrupt delicate nesting habitats for migrating shorebirds,” an Audubon naturalist explained. “It helped push many coastal communities to adopt seasonal leash laws.”

the film helping inspire new dog leash laws to protect shorebirds.

The heartwarming portrayals of dogs in the film also led to record-breaking adoption rates that year. Shelters across the country reported that demand for adopting dogs spiked after the release of The Dog Lover. It inspired more compassionate attitudes toward man’s best friend.

The movie’s legacy continues today, with animal welfare organizations crediting it for raising awareness. On a cultural level, The Dog Lover paved the way for later pet-centric films like Marley & Me and A Dog’s Purpose. Its box office success proved movies about dogs could succeed. The Dog Lover remains one of the most influential animal-focused films in cinema history.

Movie’s Portrayal of Dogs

The Dog Lover portrays dogs as loyal, affectionate companions that bring great joy to their human owners. According to Roger Ebert’s review, the film opens with footage of dogs being “generally adorable” in order to immediately establish the idea that dogs are loving creatures deserving of humane treatment (Ebert). Throughout the movie, dogs are shown providing comfort, protection and friendship to the human characters.

The film aims to reveal the strong bond between humans and dogs. When the main character Sara goes undercover at the suspected puppy mill, she is at first determined to expose the operation but gradually comes to appreciate how much the dogs rely on their human caretakers. This inspires her to take a more nuanced view and make sure the dogs are treated humanely even if the business is shut down. The movie portrays human-dog relationships as mutually supportive and profoundly meaningful.


The Dog Lover sparked some controversy upon its release, with some critics accusing it of being propaganda for the pet industry. According to the review, the film was financed by Protect the Harvest, a group that lobbies on behalf of large-scale dog breeders. Some felt the movie presented a biased viewpoint favoring commercial breeders and criticizing animal rights activists.

The movie also came under fire for allegedly using footage obtained illegally from animal rights groups to portray them negatively. According to the News-Leader, the Humane Society accused the filmmakers of essentially stealing and repurposing their investigative footage of puppy mills. However, the filmmakers maintained the videos were obtained through public records requests.

Overall, the accusations of propaganda and misrepresentation from animal welfare groups generated negative publicity for The Dog Lover around its premiere. The film became embroiled in the heated political debates around puppy mills and animal rights versus breeders’ rights.


In conclusion, The Dog Lover is an important film for any dog lover to see. Though it has its flaws, the movie sheds light on an important real-world issue around dogs and animal cruelty. The film reminds us of the emotional bonds humans can form with their canine companions. It also highlights the need for more humane treatment of animals. While parts are dramatized, the core message around protecting dogs rings true.

For any dog owner or canine enthusiast, The Dog Lover is worth watching. Just be prepared for some upsetting scenes involving animal abuse. If you can make it through those moments, the movie offers hope and inspiration. We’re reminded how a small group of passionate advocates can create real change. The Dog Lover encourages us to fight for dogs’ wellbeing and rights. Though it’s not a perfect film, it opens our eyes to an important cause. Any true dog lover will likely appreciate its message and story.

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