The Spotted Hundred (And One)

Joon Ahn

Dr. Early

ENG 101

4 December 2018

The Spotted Hundred (and One)

Cruella De Vil, Patch, and Pongo. If a cruel and evil old hag and a hundred and one (or two) black and white puppies ring a bell, then you’re thinking of your childhood movie 101 Dalmatians. You most likely remember Dalmatians as these tiny, compassionate adorable puppies who were helplessly kidnapped. However, have you ever thought of how they had to take care of 100 Dalmatians while they were filming the movie? Recent controversy in the entertainment world has brought about concern regarding movies with animals. As you glance at the 101 Dalmatians film set photographs, you may wonder if the animals treated well on set? Are the conditions on set suitable for animals? Although the movie may portray them as adorable and fun, Dalmatians are incredibly difficult to nurture because of their intense and aggressive nature. However, on the set of the movie, the Dalmatians were still very well-tended to.

In the film, Dalmatians are portrayed as the cutest and fluffiest puppies. However, in reality, while they are cute and fluffy, Dalmatians are one of the most difficult dog breeds to raise because of their energetic nature. A brief piece of context: Dalmatians were originally bred to guard horses and coaches. As a result of their origins, they require intensive amounts of physical exercise in order to be happy and well-behaved. When Dalmatians do not receive enough attention to their physical activity, they tend to express their need for exercise by barking and destructive chewing at home. Another difficulty is their stubbornness. Dalmatians can be manipulative and dominant so the owner must assert their leadership through consistent and demanding training. However, even training can be extremely difficult because of the health problems associated with Dalmatians. Up to 12% of Dalmatians are born completely deaf and 22% are born deaf in one ear. A completely deaf dog requires special training which would add to the financial burden of taking care of Dalmatians. In addition to their inherited deafness, Dalmatians are also prone to kidney stones, skin cancer, and epilepsy – all of which can lead to surgery, further adding to the financial burden. Unfortunately, because of the inaccurate portrayal of Dalmatians in the film, there was a surge in Dalmatian adoptions. As a result of the movie, the annual number of new Dalmatian registrations increased from 8,170 puppies to 42,816 puppies (Brill). However, these new owners were unaware of the difficulties of raising a Dalmatian. In a New York Times article from 1997, in South Florida, they saw up to a 35 percent increase in Dalmatian return to animal shelters, and the shelters say owners have found the dogs high-strung, willful and aggressive.

Regardless of all of these challenges, however, the production crew of 101 Dalmatians looked after the puppies with the utmost care. From an article in Humane Hollywood, the Dalmatians were given special safety precautions like heated kennels, human-safe dyes to add spots on the Dalmatians, and sets that were disinfected daily. The sets were also closed and only people who were directly involved with the puppies were allowed to be present. Additionally, no one was permitted on the set where the puppies worked without first stepping into a disinfectant bath and washing their hands thoroughly. Recently, however, it appears as though the entertainment industry has been lacking in its animal safety procedures. In 2017, A Dog’s Purpose was released in theaters. However, two weeks prior to its release, a video titled “TERRIFIED GERMAN SHEPHERD FORCED INTO TURBULENT WATER” was posted on Youtube. As the title reveals, the video shows a German Shepherd forced into chaotic waters and almost drowning. Because this video was for one of the scenes in A Dog’s Purpose, People were outraged at the video and as a result the film’s expected gross dropped by 20% on the opening weekend. (LA Times)  In The Hobbit, “three horses, six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens used in The Hobbit‘s New Zealand shoot had died at a ranch where they were housed between takes.” (Hollywood Reporter). In a Kmart commercial, a shark transported to Los Angeles from New York died due to stress (ABC News). So based on recent events, it seems like the film industry can learn something from 101 Dalmatians.

Despite their demanding nature, Dalmatians were very well cared for by caretakers in top-quality conditions on set. Of course, it was a difficult task because of the nature of the breed, but nonetheless there were nearly no criticisms of set conditions on any newspapers. While it may only display film equipment and cast members, the 101 Dalmatians photographs in the Boone Special Collections provide us with an insight of condition of the entertainment industry at the time.


Works Cited

AmericanHumane. “ 101 Dalmatians.” Humane Hollywood,

Daunt, Tina. “What ‘The Hobbit’s 27 Animal Deaths Mean for Movies.” The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood Reporter, 1 Dec. 2012,

Dolak, Kevin. “Shark’s Death on Kmart Commercial Shoot Causes Uproar.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 15 Mar. 2013,

Herzog, Harold. “Forty-Two Thousand and One Dalmatians: Fads, Social Contagion, and Dog Breed Popularity.” Brill, Brill, 7 Oct. 2018,

Kaufman, Amy. “’A Dog’s Purpose’ Was Supposed to Be a Hit, until Animal-Abuse Controversy Threw the Studio’s Plan out the Window.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2017,

Navarro, Mireya. “After Movies, Unwanted Dalmatians.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Sept. 1997,

Welton, Michele. “Dalmatians: What’s Good About ‘Em, What’s Bad About ‘Em.” Your Purebred Puppy,