Beyond the Myth: A Look at Dog Breed Discrimination

Hearing the police knock on your door never gives anyone the warm fuzzies. It’s nerve-wracking. But imagine opening your door to a police officer who’s come to take away a member of your family. They’ll be locked in confinement until a) you can permanently relocate him or her, or b) time runs out and your loved one is killed.

That’s been the harsh reality for many pit bull owners in breed-discriminatory cities, as depicted in Beyond the Myth: A Film About Pit Bulls and Breed Discrimination by filmmaker Libby R. Sherrill. —-The documentary was unveiled for a screening in Newport this weekend, a pretty significant moment considering much of the film was shot in Cincinnati, a city that doesn’t tolerate pit bull ownership.

Now, will Cincinnati Police officers come to your door and cart away Fido just because he’s there? Probably not. But it’s a chance pit owners have been taking since an ordinance declared the breed illegal in 2003.

The film visited Denver, Colo., San Francisco, Calif. and Miami, Fla. as well as Cincinnati — all cities where pits have been deemed vicious and illegal in one way or another.

Am I biased? Hell yes, I’m biased. The sweet-tempered, super-loyal boxer mix I adopted two years ago has some pit bull traits herself. It’s a broad term used to lump together a series of breeds, and all it takes is a slight change in perspective to decide if a dog is socially acceptable or not when physical features are being judged rather than temperament.

As was mentioned in the film, people might not take action when pits are being killed, but it’s only a matter of time before more breeds are deemed dangerous and forced into exile or execution.

It’s clearly a shame when people get attacked by pit bulls — but is it less significant when someone is attacked by another breed? According to Beyond the Myth, that’s exactly how it looks. When Nicholas Faibish was mauled to death by his family’s two pit bulls, his story was covered significantly more in the media than when Kait-Lynn Logel was killed by her family’s Alaskan malamute. I guess malamutes are harder fit into catchy headlines.

Overall, Beyond the Myth is a refreshingly educational look at the knee-jerk reactions and generalizations people have passed against a misrepresented breed of man’s best friend. Not only does Sherrill provide several in-depth interviews with advocates for the cause, the film works to provide some answers and alternatives to breed-specific legislation. (Like, I don’t know, punish the irresponsible owners instead of their abused pets?)

Beyond the Myth is an informative, enlightening step on the road to rescuing guiltless animals, and I think anyone with a pet can relate to the dilemma pit owners face in the struggle for pup equality.

Miss the screening? You can still learn about Beyond the Myth here.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.