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Walk shows loving side of pit bulls

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RACINE — A line of about 25 pit bulls walked down Main Street Saturday afternoon.

They trotted over sidewalks, past benches and people, their tongues hanging out and their tails wagging.

The dogs, all on leashes and joined by about 50 people, traveled from Monument Square to the Racine Zoo and back as part of a walk organized by Racine resident Craig Hansen to raise awareness about the pit bull breed’s characteristics.

“There is negativity,” said Hansen, 39, a delivery driver. “But the majority of the dogs, they’re a great breed. They’re loyal and loving.”

Many people think of pit bulls as mean and violent, and the media is full of pit bull attack stories, Hansen said. But he has two pit bulls and he’s never had an issue.

Walk participants Jeremy and Amanda Westplate, of Racine, have also never had an issue with their pit bulls. They brought their 7-week-old pit bull puppy, small enough to fit inside a baseball cap, but left their other, older pit bull at home because “two is too many to carry at one time,” said Jeremy Westplate, 31, a business owner.

“They got a bad rap, that’s all,” he said of pit bulls. “They’re a great dog. They’re great with the kids.”

The couple has three children, including a 1-year-old daughter their pit bull loves.

“She can dig in her eye, pick her nose, the dog doesn’t care,” said Amanda Westplate, 32, a stay-at-home mom.

Walk participant Jason Chacon said his pit bull is great with kids, too. He’s had the dog for four years and got him because of all the negativity surrounding the breed.

“They’re hated, so I try to get people to change their minds about them,” said Chacon, 22, of Racine, who builds in-ground pools. “People think they’re really vicious and I wanna try to prove people wrong.”

Changing those perceptions is tough going, though.

“They’re mean by nature,” said 77-year-old retired Racine resident Ron Wellna, who was walking Downtown as the pit bulls passed. “I don’t want one.”

Wellna’s grandson, who was walking next to him, disagreed.

“Overall I think they have a negative perception but I’ve never had a bad experience with a pit bull,” said A.J. Wellna, a 24-year-old teacher from Sheboygan. “If you raise them right, I think pit bulls can be very friendly.”

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