2019, the year our dreams started coming true (and the year of many life-saving changes)!  When I reflect on the past twelve months, I can’t believe the impact we have had on our community. This has been our most life-saving and life-enriching year on record for animals (and their people).  I can confidently say this because we have the data to prove it!

This chart reflects the entire county.
This chart reflects the entire county.

On the highest level, we use data to ensure that each program implemented is impacting the number of animals dying and underserved in our community. We want to see intake numbers decrease at our local animal control because proactive and intervention programs are working. We want to see the number of animals being returned to their owners increasing as lost pet programming is put into place. We want to see euthanasia rates decreasing in the county (and our service area) as our intake, foster and adoption programs become more progressive. And, we want to see every donated dollar stretching as far as it can to support these programs. 

Monthly, leadership would look cross-eyed at the many statistics we were tracking on spreadsheets and documents. I have always been blown away by these statistics and the work that our team does on a daily basis. We wanted to make this visible to the public so YOU too can see the hard work that is being done! BUT, we needed to present them in a more palatable format. We put our data and technology loving minds together and created The Gateway Pet Guardians Data Dashboard that is hosted on our website for everyone’s viewing pleasure. This slideshow is updated monthly as the raw data is updated. While it is a lot of information, I encourage you, as a GPG supporter to see how your time and donations helps us save and enrich the lives of animals and the humans that love them.

As I mentioned, we look at data to ensure we are making the biggest impact we can in our community. If we see opportunities in our data to impact more lives, we need to add and/or adjust strategy and programs. As new programming is put into place, the number of lives impacted dramatically changes so we then readjust to our new climate. All of this change is hard and we have done a lot of changing over these past twelve months. AND in addition, life as we know it is going to change a whole lot more in the next 20 days!  (If you know me, you know I, personally love change!  It keeps us all fresh and striving to impact the most lives we can!) 

Managing change is not something that we are navigating alone. As an industry, animal welfare is breaking down fences to change how we, as professionals and you, as the public view our work.  Ten years ago, we used to put forth every barrier to ensure each rescued animal lived the high life in affluent areas with the best dog bed, went for walks five times a day even though a fenced yard was required.  Do you know what else was happening ten years ago?  Over THREE MILLION animals were dying in our nation’s shelters. THREE. MILLION. (See chart in second paragraph to get a glimpse of what our community looked like just eight years ago.)

So, great animal welfare minds (and funders) began collaborations to work together to strategize how to affect those numbers.  Industry leaders began doing things so differently many thought they were crazy. But at the rate animals were dying, times called for crazy. It was so wildly successful that the momentum of progressive programming caught on!  If you can dream it, and it could save more lives, let’s try it! Because at the end of the day, the animals deserve us trying everything we can to reduce unneccessary death. Fast forward to today, less than one million animals are killed in shelters across the country with that number declining…rapidly!  GPG has gladly jumped on the crazy, progressive programming train and we are full speed ahead doing whatever we can to save and impact lives!

How did we learn about these best practices and innovative programs? With the help of Maddie’s Fund, American Pets Alive, Austin Pets Alive, Best Friends Animal Society, HSUS and Purina, our staff (along with one volunteer and one veterinarian) has learned from some of these great minds in our industry through conferences and apprenticeships this year. The knowledge that came back changed the course of our organization and the impact we make. 

Angel reunited with her mom, who needed temporary care for her pet in order to keep her.

The strategy we implemented this year was easy: Zero-in solely on our service area: East Side Pet District (East St. Louis, Alorton, Washington Park, Centreville, Cahokia and Fairmont City) which accounts for 25% of the intake into St. Clair County Animal Services. Support the community’s pet owners through resources and services. Determine and work toward a live outcome for all animals entering AC from our service area (through playgroups, return to owner, transfer to GPG or another partner, transfer to adoption center).  Create an immediate pathway for animals entering GPG: foster, marketing, training, etc). Reduce foster barriers to grow foster program. Implement shelter medicine model to reduce costs, reduce adoption barriers. BOOM! 

Then you know what happened? We were running like a well-oiled machine. We cleared every wait list for animals in need in our community by July, decreased our length of stay (which continues to decrease), placed more animals more quickly in foster homes, increased success rate of adoption applications. That means…we can bring more animals in that need us!  BOOM again! 

I couldn’t be more proud of what our team has accomplished this year. All of this really incredible professional growth, organizational growth, programming change and impact has been developed and maintained all while we were purchasing and renovating what will be the largest pet resource center in the region! We’ve been building the plane while flying it the past twelve months and it’s been a wild ride! Our staff and each and every volunteer has made that happen. GPG has always been primarily fueled by volunteers and though we have added staff to support our efforts, we will always remain volunteer focused. Thank you to each of you that dedicate your time to us!

Sooooo, what’s next???

54,000 square feet in the middle of a pet resource desert… THAT’S WHAT! 

I cannot literally wait to see what 2020 has in store for Gateway Pet Guardians and our community!  Every day during this 9 month renovation, a neighbor has stopped by to share their excitement about our move, to ask us if we could help their sick pet or to see if we have their lost pet.  Our doors to the public can’t get opened fast enough! 

Stay tuned for details about our move and how you can be involved. While we will be moving the dogs into the new space in January and will have volunteer opportunities then, our public offerings won’t be open until spring as we finalize renovations in Phase 1. To learn more about and support our Capital Campaign, click HERE.

See you in 2020 on the East Side!


Jamie Case, Executive Director