In the minds of many people, a pit bull is more than just a type of dog.
Descriptions such as “vicious,” “killer” and “antisocial” are often used alongside the term. The entire group is set aside as an inherently dangerous animal that almost no other breeds of dog have to deal with.
But for a small subset of dog lovers, the animals can be just as loving, affectionate and worthy of a good home as any other pet.
The people dedicated to pit bull rescue are the focus of “Casa del Toro,” a documentary being produced by Whiteland Community High School students.
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Seniors Jessica Hord and Michal Feasel spoke with residents who have worked for years alongside the dogs, attempting to smash prejudices and false reputations.
“Dogs are all individuals and should be treated on a case-by-case basis,” Hord said. “They shouldn’t be judged by the shape of their head or their DNA.”
The project has its roots from an incident Feasel witnessed at her home.
Her family had adopted a pit bull during the summer. A contractor, who was scheduled to come over to do work on the family’s floors, refused to even see the dog, simply because of its short hair, block head and muscular body.
“He was very prejudiced against it and didn’t want to see her at all. I felt like that was a very common thing for people who own pit bulls or have pit bull mixes,” Feasel said.
Feasel and Hord decided to focus on the subject in a documentary film. But getting started was more difficult than they expected.
Because of the negative press that often swirls around pit bulls and the people who rescue them, it took the pair three months to find an expert to talk to them.
They contacted rescue operators across Indiana and the country. Not until tapping into a meeting of Indianapolis area rescuers did they find the resources they needed to start their film.
The bulk of the documentary focuses on Casa del Toro Pit Bull Rescue, an Indianapolis-based group that aims to place the dogs in adoptive homes while educating the general public about them.
Casa del Toro volunteers spoke about their own experiences with pit bulls and how they work to overcome the preconceptions that people have about the dogs.
Feasel and Hord try to illustrate how biased people can be about the dogs, using various news reports. If a pit bull does something good or heroic, the type of dog it is rarely gets singled out or highlighted.
But in an attack, the headline often screams, “pit bull.”
“We want to help them in changing people’s minds about the type of dog,” Feasel said. “We want them to understand that pit bulls aren’t these vicious fighting animals. It’s just what the previous owners have tried to turn them into.”
Hord and Feasel also spoke with a veterinarian who works with pit bulls, other owners and the volunteer coordinator at Indianapolis Animal Care and Control.
“We’re trying to focus more on the rescue and what they do, while at the same time trying to get people to see that they’re not the type of dog in which society keeps painting them to be,” Feasel said.