Second Chance Dogs

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Second Chance Dogs Movie Poster Image
Uplifting but emotionally intense dog-rescue/rehab docu.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 56 minutes

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Positive Messages

Dogs are as individual as people, and like people all dogs deserve a chance at a happy life. It's important to adopt dogs because they deserve to know that someone cares. Rescued dogs make great pets and loving family members. The ASPCA is presented as a highly organized, efficient, and caring organization that uses solid science to develop rehabilitation techniques. Encourages other communities to implement rehab programs for rescued dogs by pointing out the tremendous need. There are negative messages about the terrible conditions dogs endure in puppy mills and with individuals who hoard dogs, and that buying puppies at a pet store or flea market supports a cruel industry. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kristen Collins is a great role model for working patiently with the dogs, running an efficient operation, using scientific methods to track progress and develop training techniques, and for caring deeply about individual dogs as well as the welfare of all dogs. She's supported by a strong, effective organization (the ASPCA), and by a loyal group of coworkers and employees who are also incredibly dedicated, hardworking, patient, and caring.


No depictions of physical violence, but newsreel-type footage shows dogs suffering in cages and pens in deplorable conditions, injured, and frightened. A couple of injuries are shown when talking about crowded conditions leading to fights and injuries like missing ears, and how sometime fur can become so thickly matted it tears at the skin. The poor conditions and cruelty endured by breeding dogs in puppy mills is mentioned several times along with footage of puppy-mill rescues. Mention of a litter of nine born in a puppy mill with only one puppy surviving. Ending credits have an RIP to the director's beloved dog, and that one of Kristen's personal pet dogs who's used as a "helper animal" in an extended scene has since passed away.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Second Chance Dogs is a documentary originally shown on Animal Planet in April, 2016. Graphic, newsreel-type footage of dog rescues repeatedly show and discuss inhumane and cruel conditions some dogs endure. This is difficult for viewers of any age to see, and may cause lingering distress to sensitive kids. The overall takeaway is upbeat with positive messages about how dogs deserve a happy life, and how carefully applying scientific methods and a lot of patience and care can help even the most fearful dogs become loving family members. Great role models implementing a showcase program for rehabilitating dogs that would otherwise be put down hope to inspire other communities to do the same.

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What's the story?

SECOND CHANCE DOGS goes behind the scenes at the ASPCA's Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in New Jersey, following six rescued dogs that weren't adoptable because they were too fearful and/or hadn't been socialized, and would otherwise have been put down. By carefully and patiently applying proven training techniques, and following scientific methods to monitor and track progress, the Center has been able to rehabilitate dogs that have known nothing but cruelty and hardship, ultimately placing the vast majority in loving "forever" homes. 

Is it any good?

Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, this Animal Planet documentary shows how dogs that were labeled "unadoptable" can become loving family members. Second Chance Dogs doesn't shy away from describing the problems and cruelties endured by breeding dogs in puppy mills, and even by dogs in "hoarding" situations where there can be over 100 dogs crowded together in one small home. Sensitive kids (and adults) may need reassurance and to think of ways they can help, too. But the ultimate takeaway is uplifting, and viewers will be left with a real sense of admiration for the people dedicated to helping these dogs, and for the dogs themselves.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Second Chance Dogs shows and talks about dogs suffering from cruel treatment. It's sad to think about, but what can we do to help?

  • How do you think people should go about adopting dogs? Should they go to pet stores, or to an animal shelter? Why?

  • Why do you think dogs make great pets? If you've never had a dog, have you read about or seen one in movies or TV that you especially like? Why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

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