MADACC brings documentary “Beyond the Myth” to the Oriental

"Beyond the Myth," a documentary addressing negative stereotypes about pit bulls and Breed Specific Legislation, screens tonight at the Oriental Theatre.

By - Oct 25th, 2012 09:47 am
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Libby Sherrill wrote and directed this film about breed specific legislation (BSL) against pit bulls to investigate the myths associated with these breeds and challenge the idea they are inherently vicious. Photo courtesy of Beyond The Myth

Dangerous dogs or friendly canine companions?  Over the last two decades breeds like the American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, more popularly known as “pit bulls,” have faced fierce discrimination throughout the United States. Many believe the crusade against the breed is founded in fiction not fact.

In the documentary, Beyond the Myth, first time writer, producer and director Libby Sherrill seeks to debunk common fallacies and negative stereotypes against pit bulls.

A screening of the documentary will start at 7:15 p.m. today at the Oriental Theatre and is sponsored by  the Friends of the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission, a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of animals brought to the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) and promote awareness of their cause through community events.

“I think for somebody who doesn’t know about pit bull type dogs, it’s something that can really show them a lot,” said Kim Stangel, organizer of the event and also education and outreach co-chair of the Friends of MADACC. “I think it’s really important for people to learn about the breed because there are a lot of misconceptions out there.”

Ben and Ashlee had to move outside Cinncinnatti city limits so they could lawfully keep their companion animal, Riddick, because of BSL. Photo: Beyond The Myth

The film takes audience members on a trip to Cincinnati, Denver, San Francisco, and Miami, four cities notorious for Breed Specific Legislation.

Breed Specific Legislation are laws that regulate the terms and conditions of owning certain dog breeds, some of which go as far as banning a breed from a city. These laws were created with the idea that they may reduce dog fights and dog bites, however, evidence to support the effectiveness of these laws is lacking.

There are several BSL laws in Milwaukee County alone. Nearly all of these laws require that the owner obtain a permit for the dog and not allow the dog outside without a leash or fenced in space. These laws mainly target pit bulls, but sometimes include other “dangerous animals” such as Rottweilers.

Cesar Millan, star of Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel is famous for his phrase, “In the ’70s they blamed Dobermans, in the ’80s they blamed German Shepherds, and in the ’90s they blamed the Rottweiler. Now they blame the Pit Bull.”

A proud owner of a pit bull herself, Stangel said she confronts breed discrimination on a daily basis.

“My experience with walking [my pit bull] is that people walk across the street to get away from us. I almost laugh at it sometimes because if they only knew that the worst thing she would probably do to them is lick them, and it’s all based on her appearance.”

Denver’s BSL made Ann keep her pit bull hidden for 10 years, until her faithful companion, Ophelia, was diagnosed with cancer and she came out of the closet. Photo: Beyond The Myth

MADACC is an open admission facility and passes around 13,000 stray, abused, neglected and owner surrendered animals through their doors every year. Of the dogs taken in, the majority are pit bulls.

“I think it’s a problem that we need changes in the community in several ways,” said Stangel. “We need people to treat their animals with compassion. We have a pit bull problem because of lack of spay and neuter, and backyard breeding, meaning that breeding is not done by a responsible breeder and is done as a source of income.”

By bringing this documentary to Milwaukee, Stangel hopes to challenge opinions and alter perspective on the breed for the better.

“I think that it’s an issue we can make some changes on and it can make a difference for the animals. It can save animal’s lives and it could make a difference for families.”

Since the documentary debuted in 2010, it has traveled to more than 15 states along with several visits to Canada.

Raffles and other pre-show activities will begin tonight, Thursday, Oct. 25, at 6:45 p.m.

Vintage will host a fundraiser after-party and will offer a free drink to anyone who donates an item off the Friends of MADACC wish list. 100 percent of Pabst beer and specialty FOM cocktail sales will also benefit FOM.

Beyond the Myth: A Documentary About Pit Bulls and Breed Discrimination from libby sherrill on Vimeo.

For more information on the film and tonight’s screening, visit the Event Page on Facebook.

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