“Beyond the Myth” is a 2012 documentary that provides a vivid, troubling and often moving account of “breed specific legislation” in the U.S., which primarily involves states and municipalities banning “pit bull-like dogs,’ a.k.a. “vicious dogs,” though the dogs such legislation targets are usually not vicious and often are not even pit bulls. If you are one of the misinformed who have been convinced by biased reports and public hysteria that pit bulls are any more dangerous or vicious than any other breed, you owe it to yourself, your children, and the dog owners in your community to watch this film, which is available on Netflix.
Long-time readers of Ethics Alarms know that the site has visited the issue of anti-pit bull cruelty and bigotry frequently, most recently here. For those who have read and absorbed what I have written and the references I provided, there will be much that is familiar in “Beyond the Myth,”; nevertheless, I found the documentary shocking. I had no idea how pit bull bans worked in cities like San Francisco and Miami, with Gestapo-like raids on private homes culminating in harmless and beloved family pets being confiscated and slated for death if a police officer concluded that they have “5 out of 8” physical traits identified with pit bulls. Nor was I aware of how many of these dogs were being euthanized—tens of thousands every year—for being born with a broad head or a deep chest that meant they were legally branded as “vicious.”
The stories of the individual dog owners who have organized, lobbied, sued, and in some cases had to move out of their homes to protect a loving canine companion are also inspiring, if astounding. Wounded veterans have even had their service dogs taken from them. The most illuminating aspects of the documentary, however, are:
- …how much the entire sick, cruel process evokes other episodes of destructive human ignorance, such as ethnic cleansing and racial persecution;
- …the clearly delineated stages of mindless panic after a tragedy, with scapegoats being quickly fingered by authorities to quell public anger, and extreme measures being passed without proper regard for facts of rights;
- …how frequently people who do not care about a particular issue or problem are willing to stand by passively and allow the rights and legitimate interests of those who do care about it be abused by authorities and public opinion;
- ….the role the news media plays in abusing its power to misrepresent facts in the pursuit of sensationalism and their own agendas. For example, violent incidents involving alleged pit bulls are nine times more likely to receive media coverage than biting incidents involving other breeds.
- …. dim-witted, pusillanimous, cringing and lazy attitudes of elected officials and public employees, whose lack of concern for fairness and whose blind fealty to whatever position is most likely to keep their jobs is as nauseating as it is familiar;
- ….the waste of public resources in municipalities desperate to pay for basics like schools and fire departments, as hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars are spent on canine racism;
- …finally, how much public policy is driven by ignorance, incompetence, hysteria, unethical journalism, cowardice and lies.
One more observation: anyone who isn’t struck by the parallels between the response to pit bull attacks in these communities and the national gun control debate in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting isn’t paying attention.