A Grundy County couple will move ahead with plans to build and operate a pet rescue and sanctuary facility on their rural Wauponsee Township homesite.
Gina and Chris Bartucci came before the Grundy County Zoning Board of Appeals in June with a petition for a special-use permit to operate the nonprofit, “All Those Left Behind,” rescue at their property in the 2900 block of Dwight Road. The couple already provides fostering services for animals.
The couple will utilize a portion of their 8.74 acres to construct a 6,048-square-foot building with multiple rooms to house both cats and dogs, with a breezeway connecting to their home where they will provide constant oversight of the rescue. Approvals from Grundy County Animal Control and the Illinois Department of Agriculture already have been secured.
Gina Bartucci told the committee that a sanctuary animal is one that is not highly adoptable, often due to cancer, a medical condition that needs to be managed or behavioral issues that might be difficult for someone without training to manage.
“Most people don’t want to spend the funds. But as long as quality of life is there, we’ll go ahead with some treatment,” she said, adding that the rescue’s rooms will have couches and beds where the animals can lounge and be comfortable.
The Bartuccis said having a facility will create better exposure and better access for people looking to adopt an animal, and they plan to focus on local rescues.
“We want to help the community that we live in, so, that’s our primary focus,” Bartucci said.
During public comment, one local resident expressed concern over the noise that dogs at the rescue could make.
“I can’t imagine 50 dogs barking. … People around there have got rights, too. I’m just not in favor of this,” Keith Kopelman told the committee.
However, Benjamin Ordanez, who lives nearby, said the Bartuccis once helped him when he found a lost dog. Ordanez told the committee he met the couple in the middle of the night after finding a sick dog roaming near his home. The dog had wandered away from its owner at a nearby campsite, but was in need of medicine. Ordanez said he couldn’t get any help from animal control because it was late at night on a weekend.
But, he said, the Bartuccis were able to take the dog in, find its owner and reunite them.
He said the pet rescue will provide an invaluable service to the community.
“I think it’s a service that is needed in the county,” Ordanez said. “I have noticed by the work that they have done with the animals … as far as I’m concerned, I’m down the road as well, and it’s a very worthwhile organization and a service that is sorely needed in the county.”
Another neighbor came forward to tell the committee that he adopted his first pet from the Bartuccis, who focused on training not just the animal but him, as well. He said the couple provided a great deal of support and still periodically check in on him and his animals.
One of the Bartuccis’ adjacent neighbors said they wanted clarity in the special-use permit to make sure that the permit protects other property owners, their children and their animals, as well as provides a good precedent for future animal rescue operations in Grundy County.
Committee members noted that the permit is not transferable and all animals will be vetted, vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The committee also added a requirement that any dogs being walked outside of fenced-in areas must be on a leash.
The permit will include stipulations for the rescue, including fence height, kennel requirements, keeping the building climate and ventilation controlled and providing sound insulation inside the building. The site also will undergo a periodic review of its license at both the county and state level.
The couple also is considering up to six special events each year.
The operation will allow for a maximum of 50 dogs/puppies and 30 cats/kittens present at any one time, but the Bartuccis said the rescue likely will have fewer at its onset, and will only increase to those numbers should they have proper volunteer staffing available.
“We’re all volunteers, for some reason, my husband and I are crazy enough to give up our lives and our time for the animals,” Bartucci said. “It’s just what we’re very passionate about and we know that [the animals] deserve this opportunity.”
The special-use permit will go before the Grundy County Board for final approval.