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(Pet Fooleda powerful new documentary that every pet owner needs to see, will be released nationwide on iTunes and VOD on January 10, 2017 by Gravitas Ventures.)

Careful! You may be poisoning your beloved fur baby. Or, at the very least, not giving him or her the best food s/he deserves. It’s no small matter, as the new documentary Pet Fooled makes clear, especially for pet owners such as this writer, who dearly love their animals. How often do you think about what you give your darling dog or cat (the two primary examples used here)? I confess to some laziness there, though I thought I was making a better effort than it appears I am. More fool me, and more fool you, if you ignore the lessons of filmmaker Kohl Harrington (A Broken System) and his team of experts. As it turns out, it’s a matter of life and death.

There are two veterinarians – Dr. Karen Shaw Becker and Dr. Barbara Royal – in particular that Harrington uses more than the rest, and they are both extremely articulate spokespeople for the concept of giving our pets a species-appropriate diet. To be honest, the truth of this is so self-evident (what reasonable arguments could one make against Mother Nature and evolution), that it might explain why there are virtually no industry representatives in the movie. As Becker and Royal both make abundantly clear in this briskly-paced, snappy diatribe against the major brands, all we have to do is look at the labels on the food we serve Fido and Felix to know that we’re giving them materials that have very little to do with what their stomachs need. They’re primarily carnivores, after all, and the corn and other grain fillers that make up their pre-packaged snacks and meals serve very little nutritional value.

Then again, we members of the human race also eat quite a lot of food that is bad for us – which our doctors tell us not to – and it doesn’t always kill us. Unfortunately, sometimes what we feed our pets kills them, as we learn here, and those are the moments that make Pet Fooled particularly effective. The perhaps excessive alarmism of the early part of the movie gives way to the real and deadly warnings about contaminated pet products. Bad food may kill over time – corn-based products lead to obesity in animals, just as they do in people – but tainted treats kill immediately. If nothing else, this film should be a clarion call for greater regulation in an industry that, for now, anyway, mostly polices itself. It would be nice if there were even one intelligent voice on the other side of the debate, just for contrast, but perhaps such a person simply doesn’t exist. Regardless, pet lovers everywhere should see this film, if only to force an awareness that not all kibble is created equal.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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