Me and jordBy Ashley Riley, GPG Vice President

By now, many have heard or read about the unfortunate incident in Belleville earlier this week where it is believed that a dog was left outside during the arctic cold snap and froze to death.

The neighbor left a voicemail on our Spay/Neuter hotline asking if we could help with the situation. One of our fantastic volunteers – a certified humane investigator – received the voicemail and while Belleville is not within our service area (we serve East St. Louis, Alorton, Centreville, Caseyville and Washington Park), she decided to help the neighbor out on her own personal time anyway after she finished her double shift as a nurse at a local hospital. Unfortunately, by the time she was able to get to the residence, it was too late.

While Gateway Pet Guardians is not directly involved in the investigation, we are covering the cost of a necropsy on the pet in question so that a cause of death can be determined and the Belleville Police Department can determine whether or not they need to bring any charges against the owner.

Ultimately, this was a preventable tragedy for many reasons. The owner could have been a better owner and brought his dog inside at the slightest hint of cold weather (although we would prefer all dogs live inside a warm home). As animal rescue organizations, we have to do more to change the public’s mentality about pet ownership and education is the only way we will ever achieve that. It’s a very slow process that will take years, but the more effort we and our supporters put into it now, the more it will pay off in the long run.

The way laws are written, neighbors and other people are legally bound in situations like this. They can’t take matters into their own hands, nor should they. The process is in place for a reason. Unfortunately the resources for the process to be followed effectively are minimal or don’t exist.

In these situations, neighbors are supposed to call animal control, but they’re afraid to do that because they think the dog will simply be put down if no one else claims it. That’s why it’s important for rescues to create relationships with local animal control facilities – people can’t let fear keep them from following the process because if they do, the animal dies either way. If they understand that the animal control facility actually IS doing something to get pets into a safe environment, they’re more likely to call.

We’ve been working very hard of the last year and a half to build a great relationship with St. Clair County Animal Control – we pulled more than 70 dogs from them in 2013. That’s AMAZING for us with our limited resources. Of course, we want to do more, but we have to have two things first:  1) qualified foster families and 2) money for vet bills. We would love to rescue every animal we could from animal control (and on the street), but if we did that right now, we’d be out of business.

While this is a terrible tragedy, it does shed more light on the end result of animal neglect and, hopefully, will spur people to make the changes necessary to prevent it from happening again.

If you would like to support Gateway Pet Guardians in it’s partnership with St. Clair County Animal Control and help us rescue more animals, please consider making a donation.