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Pit bulls are cheered, not feared

Pit bulls get a bad rap among some crowds, but 2-year-old Belle leaped to cheers and applause Sunday afternoon, scoring high points in one competition at the Picnic with the Pups event at Keeneland.

Belle participated in the beginner's toss-and-catch competition during the family event benefiting the Bluegrass Animal Welfare League. Dogs score points for catching a Frisbee in the air without going out of bounds; the farther the Frisbee goes before the dog catches it, the more points. After the first round, Belle was in first place with 14.5 points.

"You hear a lot of bad things about pit bulls," said one of the owners, Jodi Tienken of Cincinnati. "High-energy dogs need something to do."

The Frisbee competition provides a positive alternative to mischief for Belle. Tienken said the dog has been participating in Frisbee competitions for about a year and has won eight awards.

Other dogs were a little more seasoned. Lily, a 4-year-old Australian shepherd, scored 11 points. Lily has been competing in the sport about three years, and loves it, owner Julie Halstead of Louisville said.

"It's the only thing that wears her out," Halstead said.

Families and their pets also enjoyed music, food, an obstacle course and other activities during Sunday's event, including the Best Dressed Dog competition where pets strutted with hats, bag pipes and in Army fatigues.

First place went to a pooch named Princess, owned by Haley Freeman of Versailles. Princess donned silver sequins and a blond wig that matched her own coat. She was Miley Cyrus' alter ego, pop star Hannah Montana of the Disney Channel.

"She dresses up for Halloween," Freeman said.