Private Project

Don't Shoot The Dog

Michael Hackenberger, owner of the Bowmanville zoo has had his share of controversy in the media. From the mistreatment of one of the oldest elephants in the country, to calling a monkey a “fucking cocksucker” on live television, he has gathered his share of enemies. Recently, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) uploaded a video that allegedly showed Hackenberger whipping a tiger nineteen times during a training session. In the wake of the video’s viral success the zoo has received more hate than ever before, with the owner being the primary target. In this documentary, eight student filmmakers agree to spend a weekend with Michael creating a video that shows his perspective – with a hidden agenda: to gain insight into how the trainer treats his peers, his animals, and his zoo.

  • Jessie Posthumus
  • Sarah Quan
  • Benjamin Wong
  • Adrian Morphy
  • Geoffrey Cork
    Second Unit Photography
  • Adrian Morphy
    Second Unit Photography
  • Jessie Posthumus
  • Michael Hackenberger
    Key Cast
  • Stephanie Cohen
    Sound Recording
  • Michael Babiak
    Sound Recording
  • Sarah Simone
    Assistant Camera
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Student
  • Runtime:
    18 minutes 21 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 13, 2016
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Director Biography - Jessie Posthumus

Jessie Posthumus is an award-winning writer and filmmaker living in Toronto, Ontario. Her short animated documentary 'White Lines' can be found on both TVO and Bell Fibe TV, and she’s currently attending Ryerson University for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Image Arts: Film Studies.

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Director Statement

As a Bowmanville native, the Bowmanville Zoo has always held a special place in my heart. Many of my earliest memories were spent roaming the grounds there, sunburnt and curious. Tainting those memories, however, are images of protestors, shouting, and gossip. The beginning of a questioning within myself about animal rights, the ethics of zoological parks, and the intense relationship humans have with these creatures. I was torn – what was my part in it all?
Years later, the owner and director of the Zoo, Michael Hackenberger, appeared in the media more and more for slip-ups. It seemed that he couldn’t do anything right, and when a video surfaced that showed him allegedly viciously whipping a tiger, the Internet exploded. The hate towards him was venomous, but the support was also there. My goal was to explore both sides of the story, but instead we found ourselves deep inside Michael Hackenberger’s vision for the redemption of his reputation. In our film Don’t Shoot The Dog, the crew and I use a behind the scenes perspective to explore the questions that festered in my brain as a ten-year-old visitor of the zoo – and we leave feeling just as lost and confused as ever.