During the American civil rights movement, white actress Julie Sawyer accidentally runs over a stray White Shepherd dog. After the veterinarian treats him, Julie takes him home while trying to find his owners. A rapist breaks into her house and tries to attack her, but the dog protects her. She decides to adopt him, against the wishes of her boyfriend Roland Graele. Unbeknown to her, the dog was trained by a white racist to attack black people on sight. The dog sneaks out of the house, and kills a black truck driver. Later, Julie takes the dog to work with her, and he mauls a black actress on the set.
Julie takes the dog to a trainer, Carruthers, who tells her to euthanize the dog. Another dog trainer, Keys, who is black, decides to try to retrain the dog. He dons protective gear and keeps the dog in a large enclosure, taking him out on a chain and exposing himself to the dog each day and making sure he is the only one to feed or care for the dog.
The dog escapes and kills an elderly black man in a church. Keys recovers him, and opts not to turn him over to authorities to continue the training, over Julie's protests. He warns her that the training has reached a tipping point, where the dog might be cured or go insane. He believes that curing the dog will discourage white racists from training dogs like this.
Eventually, the dog becomes friendly towards Keys. Julie confronts the dog's original owner, who has come to claim him. She angrily tells him the dog has been cured by a black person in front of his grandchildren who knew the dog to be a loving pet. Just as Julie and Keys celebrate their victory, the dog, without warning, turns its attention to Carruthers and attacks him. To save his employer's life, Keys is forced to shoot and kill the dog.
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