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"They took us to the pound! I told you! This is it, this is the end of the line! WE GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE!"

One trope that's sure to rub animal-shelter volunteers the wrong way is the frequently antagonistic portrayal of animal shelters in fiction.

This is especially the case with Talking Animal cartoons, where pounds are depicted as little more than prisons full of animal inmates "serving time" for some alleged misdemeanor offense and hoping to one day see the warm sun and blue skies again. In extreme cases, depictions may even echo Nazi concentration camps with diabolical dog-catchers deliberately hunting down and impounding household pets by the hundreds (as one New York City pound became infamous for during the 1800's) to be "put to sleep", never to see their beloved family again unless they immediately stage some kind of daring jailbreak.

Now while it is true that animal-control officers may impound problematic or aggressive animals when responding to an emergency call, and that not enough lost pets at animal shelters get reunited with their families, modern (Real Life) animal-control facilities and shelters are nowhere near the depraved standards that fiction likes to depict them with. Animal shelters know firsthand how deeply pets become family members, and have a vested interest in providing their animals with a regular supply of food, shelter, health care, and companionship -- doubly so for "rescue" shelters who specialize in rehabilitating victims of neglect or abuse by previous human owners. Meanwhile, they do their best to get them adopted by loving new guardians or try to find the proper owners of lost animals, while leaving euthanasia as an absolute last resort.

Fortunately becoming a Discredited Trope with animal-rights groups (not the Animal Wrongs Group) making the plight of abandoned and abused animals more well-known, though it may have originated from the Forgotten Trope of the Diabolical Dogcatcher (especially in areas where pet ownership requires an official license).

A particularly strange variation can occur with zoos and/or wildlife rehabilitation centers, who work with non-domestic animals that (for whatever reason) might not survive in the wild; they too have a vested interest in their animals' health and upkeep.

Probably related to the Sadistic Science Lab and the fear of winding up there, and the Orphanage of Fear.

Examples of Pounds Are Animal Prisons include:


Film

  • Hotel For Dogs. "At least it's better than the pound." Also presents pound workers gloating about euthanising dogs after a day, just to drive the point home.
  • The Shaggy D.A. had a dog pound scene, presented very like a prison, where he escaped with the help of the other dogs.
  • In the movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, the animal shelter is initially portrayed like this -- but only from the animals' point of view, as it's revealed that the shelter was trying to contact their owners, and had the animals not escaped they would have been reunited sooner. They also removed the porcupine quills lodged in Chance's face. Chance himself was rescued from a pound by his owner, which probably explains his severe hatred of "that bad place".
  • The 1995 movie Fluke not only has a Prison Pound, it also has an Evil Research Lab. And did we mention that the titular dog is a reincarnated human?
  • Mousehunt had the doggy concentration camp variety. And yes, we see a kitten getting gassed for absolutely no reason.

Literature

  • Jennifer Crusie's novella Anyone But You begins with the protagonist, Nina, going to the pound to adopt a dog and ending up rescuing a dog who was on his last day before euthanization.
  • In the book Dog, the titular dog leaves the dumpster he grew up in and ends up captured by the dogcatcher and thrown into a van with other dogs. He befriends Shep, a big, white, shaggy dog, learns that after only three days where strays are not picked up by their owners or adoped, they are put down. His group of dogs are put into cages and spend two days there. The other dogs shout, some claiming to be pets and wanting to know what they did to deserve their fates. Dog is adopted. Cruelly, other dogs are not as lucky.
  • In the same vein as this trope, one of the books by Kenneth and Adrian Bird about the talking dog called Himself had his owner leave him at a dog hostel while he went on holiday. The dogs there are cruelly treated by the couple running the business, so Himself ends up leading a revolt.
  • Parodied in the children's book Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School, by Mark Teague. A dog who pulls on his owners leash too much gets sent to obedience school. He writes letters to her about how much of a prison it was, when in reality it was a luxury. He made it seem like he ran away from it too, while he actually was just released and everyone in town was overjoyed to see him when he came back.

Live-Action TV

  • An early episode of Eerie Indiana involved a dog pound, and a boy whose dental bracers could detect (and translate) the dogs' language. It was implied that an ominous room at the end of the hall was where they put dogs to sleep, and the dogs were organizing some kind of rebellion.
  • In Married... with Children, when Buck runs away and ends up in the pound, it's very prison-ish, complete with harmonica-playing pooch and a "religious" pup ready to administer the last rites.
  • In an episode of Wishbone, Wishbone is placed in the pound after having been found without his collar. He initially views it like this, but then he falls in love with a female dog there. At this point, his owner shows up and provides an Unwanted Rescue.

Newspaper Comics

  • Averted in a Scamp comic where after spending an entire day trying to find a place to cool off on a hot summer day, Scamp gets sent to the pound, where the dogs there have built an escape tunnel (which appears to be the same one they were working on in the movie), but stay anyways because it is nice and cool inside.
  • In the Dilbert comic strip, Dogbert was once sent to the pound and used his One Phone Call to call a wrecking company to destroy it.
  • The Dogs of C Kennel by Mick and and Mason Mastroianni is pretty much this.
  • The title character of Opus was imprisoned in the local dog pound at one point. It was Played for Laughs, with the storyline spoofing various Prison Tropes (and the inmates' reaction to a penguin in their midst). He was released after a short time, once his owner paid his fine. See Bloom County.

Toys

  • Along the same lines is Pick-A-Dilly Pet Shop for the Purr Tenders. The cats there aren't being sold, so they wind up disguising themselves as other animals just to get out, and they're all terrified of being taken back... even though there's no evidence that they're being ignored or mistreated by the owner. (His dog, on the other hand, is a dick.)

Web Comics

  • In the Web Comic Skin Horse, the "Wild Things" Story Arc. Talking dog Sweetheart ends up in custody after attempting to get in touch with her wild side and go on a rampage by brazenly defying a "Keep off the grass" sign and actually spilling coffee on someone's lawn. Oh, the caninity.

Western Animation

  • Lady and the Tramp. "What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" Lady herself has a license and is quickly returned to her owners, while Tramp is caught by the dog-catchers (but later adopted by Lady's family as well). Interestingly, the dogcatchers aren't really demonized or set up as villains; they're just people doing their jobs. Though the dogs are shown to be absolutely miserable, as they try to dig out and escape. Mostly, it's the nasty Aunt Sarah that tells the dogcatcher to destroy the Tramp.
  • Ren and Stimpy, the pilot episode "Big House Blues".
  • We hate to bring up such a notorious childhood destroying moment, but the first Garfield animated special Here Comes Garfield has him and Odie trapped and alone in such a pound. A bumbling Animal Control officer is a regular antagonist in The Garfield Show
  • After being falsely accused of attacking Beebee Bluff (when he was just trying to rescue her from falling in thin ice), Porkchop of Doug is confiscated by the pound and sentenced to 'execution'. The entire matter is played out as if he's actually in a maximum security prison.
  • In Bolt, the titular dog and cat Mittens are captured by an animal-control officer after an argument between them caused a scene. Bolt is rescued by Rhino en route to the shelter, but Mittens is impounded and fears she will never leave (as nobody will want to adopt her, an abandoned, declawed housecat). Bolt then decides to break Mittens out that night with Rhino's help, which they do. The shelter itself is quite clean, and a banner in the entryway is briefly seen promoting a "Pet Adoption Week".
  • On Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko gets mistaken for a dog and is put on the pound. Appalled by the deplorable conditions, he decides to run for city dog catcher. He loses, but the city simultaneously votes in a more liberal animal control policy, and the role of dogcatcher (won by Mr. Bighead) is reduced to "glorified pooper scooper".
  • Pound Puppies:
    • The pilot had the dogs run a secret adoption network from the pound, a la Hogan's Heroes. Naturally, comparing the pound to a Nazi stalag didn't suit the networks, so for the series proper it became a benevolent animal shelter. The evil Katrina Stoneheart wants nothing more than to see all canines rounded up, but Holly knows better, and helps the resident canines see every lost dog given to a better home.
    • Its second season, "The All-New Pound Puppies Show", returned to the original themes with the pound being run strictly by Katrina instead of Holly.
    • The newer series on The Hub has since returned to the aforementioned Hogan's Heroes allegory. Indeed, their secret headquarters are referred to as "Shelter 17".
  • Since Brian on Family Guy is more human-like than dog, when he winds up in the Pound, this happens. Along with a violent cell mate.
  • Rita and Runt of Animaniacs meet when both are taken to the pound and speak to each other through the walls to plan an escape, and it's portrayed very much like a prison.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven starts with Charlie breaking out of a dog pound, the whole sequence of which is treated like a typical jailbreak scene. In the next scene, another dog comments on Charlie's return with "Ain't you supposed to be on Death Row?"
  • Dan has this view of animal shelters in an episode of Dan Vs.

 "I didn't ask you to build an animal jail across the street. Shut your prisoners up, warden!"

  • Played with in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. The wild horses see stables as a prison, or like them being taken for slaves. The humans in the movie are treated quite reasonably though, but the horses point-of-view is different from the reality.
  • Finding Nemo did this with a fish tank.
  • One episode of Muppet Babies has a part where Baby Rowlf thinks that this trope applies to zoos since they reminded him of dog pounds. Nanny goes on to explain what zoos are all about, and how important they are to the protection of animal life.
  • Some Classic Disney Shorts focusing mainly on Pluto will often have dog pounds being portrayed as prisons.
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