The reputation of the pit bull precedes it — often painting the animal as a vicious and uncontrollable.
But Chicago Heights resident and “pittie” advocate Tracy Garcia said the stigma doesn’t represent the true spirit of the animal, but it’s bad owners (and bad publicity) that give the dog a bad rap.
“I don’t think the breed is any more dangerous than other dogs,” said Garcia, 35. “But you do have to be a responsible owner. And unfortunately, negative people are drawn to this dog because of the size of the dog and the portability of the dog and if the wrong person gets their hands on it, obviously as we know, negative things will result.”
That’s why volunteers at It’s A Pittie Rescue, a nonprofit organization serving the south suburbs that Garcia helped establish more than a year ago, are dedicated to matching pit bulls that need homes with the right people.
It’s A Pittie has rescued 250 dogs in the last year, and have more than 100 already adopted, Garcia said. The rescue doesn’t have a facility and is completely foster-home based, meaning they place dogs with families while they’re waiting to be adopted.
The three-page application to adopt a pit bull from It’s a Pittie is extensive and reference checks are utilized, she added. The dogs are screened as well, including being given temperament tests to determine if they can be around other dogs, cats or children. Even volunteers who walk the dogs that are waiting for foster homes or take them to the vet are screened.
And Garcia is no amateur when it comes to pit bulls — or any kind of dog, for that matter. She began working for South Animal Hospital when she was 15, worked on and off there for years and she also worked with animal control for five years. She's also had various trainings and certifications over the years.
“Sometimes I get the nickname the Dog Whisperer,” she said with a laugh, noting that animal control and law enforcement officials have called her to deal with aggressive pit bulls.
Although she has run into officers — and others — who don’t like pit bulls, Garcia is quick to point out, “You have to understand that if you’re dealing with negative people, you’re dealing with negative dogs. If you have a dog in less than favorable conditions, if [officers] have to respond to a house with bad owners, you’re gonna have bad dogs.”
Marc Wiley Sr., a Cook County cop, agrees with Garcia.
Read Wiley’s blog about owner responsibility.
“I believe pit bulls do have a reputation undeserved,” Wiley said. “I blame the owners for not properly training the dogs.”
To properly train owners, It’s A Pittie also sends detailed instructions home with every family. Owners are cautioned to avoid certain things, like letting the dogs ride in the back of a pick-up truck and taking the dogs to a dog park, where although they may not be the aggressor against other dogs, they may be forced to defend themselves, Garcia said.
The nonprofit exists solely on donations, which are mainly solicited through events and the organization’s Facebook page. More volunteers are also always welcome. For more information, log on to the website, call (708) 792-3311 or email email@example.com.
Garcia also wants to share organization's mission — to find homes for pets that just wanted to rubbed, petted, played with and loved.
“We just want owners not to put [the dogs] in situations where they’re gonna be a statistic,” she explained. “We want them to be breed ambassadors, not a statistic.”