It should be a no-brainer: Fido (not his real name) gets lost in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After some time, owner and animal are located by a volunteer organization, a joyful reunion takes place, and that’s the end of the story. But wait a minute, not so fast. What if, for example, Fido is a battle-scarred pit bull from a dead-end ghetto, and now goes by an adopted name, and currently lives like a puppy prince in some rural paradise? Do I, the original master—and a person clearly traumatized by all I’ve been through—have an inalienable right to reclaim my dog? Or does the law, or class privilege, or even the serendipity of a comfortable new lifestyle, trump emotional (albeit potentially life-threatening) bonds? It’s my dog!
A little context: Katrina’s death toll stands at approximately 2,000 victims. In addition to people, the lives of about 150,000 pets were lost in the flood. Geralyn Pezanoski’s documentary adjusts the figure by focusing on a subset of animal survivors. While investigating cases of dog-and-owner separations she sketches an ethical dilemma in disquieting shades of gray. The impassioned wrangling between individuals, their pets, and the ad hoc organizations trying to do the right thing makes for a most perturbing film. (It won the audience award at last spring’s South by Southwest festival.) But, in the final analysis, the film’s perspective is seriously one-sided: where, pray tell, are all the cats?