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It’s A Pittie Mission: Rescue, Rehabilitate, Re-home, Educate
It’s A Pittie Rescue wants to change America’s negative thinking about the once-beloved pit bull breeds. Karen Haave / May 22, 2014

For those unfamiliar with It’s A Pittie Rescue (IPR), all they are saying is, “Give pit bulls a chance.”

The not-for-profit group based in Peotone has as its mission “to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home pit bull breeds while educating the public about American’s most misunderstood breeds.”

While the “rescuing” part of that is essential, IPR volunteers are working hard to try to alleviate the negative image of the once-beloved breed.

Over the past year, IPR has found an international spotlight with its rescue of Petunia, the sweet and gentle pit bull with the heartbreakingly sad eyes who was found as she wandered around Eastern Will County, starving, pregnant and with grisly injuries.

After a few days in a “holding” clinic, she was transferred to Animal Wellness Center Monee, where she had around-the-clock care from Dr. Lynlee Wessels and her devoted staff, along with Debbie Secrest Wilke of IPR.

Petunia died a week later, but not before her 10 pups were born–five of them stillborn–and touching a nerve among dog lovers worldwide, who slated fundraisers to help defray expenses.

Only two of Petunia’s offspring survived: Tulip and her big brother Huckleberry, who is one of the pit bulls IPR wanted to walk in the Monee Baseball Opening Day Parade. (Please see accompanying stories.)

Petunia’s ordeal also thrust IPR Founder/President Debbie Secrest Wilke into the spotlight.

Wilke rescued her first pit bull from Friends For Life Animal Rescue in Peotone when she was 42. That pit bull inspired her to begin her journey with It’s A Pittie.

She became a CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed) certified trainer through PetsMart in 2006 and became the area trainer in 2007.

She then organized It’s A Pittie in June 2011, followed by opening her own training business at Animal Wellness Center Monee in the Fall of 2013.

Under Wilke’s leadership, IPR is a volunteer-based, no-kill rescue that relies on donations from the public to fulfill its mission.

It’s A Pittie has saved more than 600 abused and abandoned pit bulls, and successfully re-homed over 400 since 2011. The dogs are placed into loving, caring foster home until they are adopted by their responsible new owners.

Since 2011, IPR has spent $18,000 in training and rehabilitation of their rescue dogs.

The group boasts a 200 percent rate of rehabilitation, having only to euthanize three of the rescue dogs because of behavioral and aggression issue.

At this time, IPR has 160 pit bulls living in foster homes, while only five are awaiting foster homes at the boarding facility in Monee. IPR rescues are placed with families that include children and have daily interaction with children.

It’s A Pittie Rescue currently has over 200 volunteers. Its eight board members each have worked with IPR for at least one year. They all are educated and experienced in every section of the rescue. The board makes decisions that will benefit the rescue, while keeping volunteers and citizens safe.