Saint Louis, MO, February 2, 2011 – Neither snow, nor rain, nor BLIZZARD shall keep her from her appointed rounds. No, she’s not the U.S. Postal Service, she’s P.J. Hightower, and even as St. Louis faces blizzard-like conditions, it’s business as usual for her. While everyone else in the city is hunkered down in the comfort of their warm homes, P.J. makes the trek across the river to feed the homeless strays in East St. Louis. They congregate on the streets across the river and patiently await her car to appear from around the corner, as it has every morning for the last nine years.
No matter the weather or how she is feeling, Hightower drives from her home in Lafayette Square directly across the bridge to East St. Louis where she was born and feeds the numerous strays that roam the streets. She rescues those she can- the most emaciated and sick, or the puppies that she finds inside abandoned and burned buildings – and finds new homes for them through her rescue organization, Gateway Pet Guardians. But for every dog P.J. Hightower saves, another litter of six are born to take it’s place.
“East St. Louis is a dumping ground for unwanted pets,” says Gateway Pet Guardians Executive Director Jamie Case. “Many of the dogs there were someone’s pet at some point. Some are simply neglected pets from the neighborhood, and some were born on the streets.”
To further address the stray population problem, the group enlisted the help of Winston Straun, a Chicago based law firm, and representative Tom Holbrook of St. Claire County to begin pushing for an amendment to the Humane Care for Animals Act in Illinois that would allow rescue organizations like Gateway Pet Guardians to trap, spay/neuter, vaccinate, and release feral strays in East St. Louis until a foster home becomes available, at which point the animal will then be rescued.
The current state of the law defines trap/neuter/release as abandonment and makes it illegal for rescue organizations to do so, allowing unaltered male and female dogs on the street to continue breeding litter after litter.
Gateway Pet Guardians’ President Amie Simmons says, “Riding with her in East St. Louis is such an eye opening experience. It made us realize that there is a problem here and that something more should be done about it. We can feed dogs all day long, but we need to get them off the streets and into good homes, but we can’t do that for all of them if we can’t keep them from repopulating.”
“P.J. hasn’t missed a single day of feeding the dogs since 2001,” says Jamie Case, Executive Director. “She knows every one of those dogs, she has a name for every one of those dogs, and they all know her. She shows incredible dedication and passion for what she does. She’s a special person.”
About Gateway Pet Guardians
Gateway Pet Guardians is a nonprofit virtual animal shelter that relies on donations and volunteer foster families to rescue starving and abandoned animals. For more information about Gateway Pet Guardians, events, purchasing tickets, or to donate, volunteer, or become a foster family, visit www.gatewaypets.com.