In 1995, P.J. Hightower, an avid animal lover, took notice of the numerous stray dogs running through the streets of East St. Louis. P.J. started feeding the homeless dogs on that day and nearly every day thereafter, and every consecutive day since 2001.
In 2004, four women – fellow animal lovers themselves – who had become acquainted with and contributed to P.J. and her efforts, decided to form a fundraising organization to take donations that would help rescue many more stray dogs and cats, and Gateway Pet Guardians was born.
Over the years, Gateway Pet Guardians has blossomed into much more than its meager beginnings. With the help of volunteers, GPG began raising enough money each year to begin filing a tax return. In 2012, Gateway Pet Guardians acquired shelter space on Manchester Road in St. Louis donated by Hillside Animal Hospital. At this time, our Foster Program also began to take off, allowing us to increase lifesaving capacity.
In 2012, GPG also shifted its focus towards community programming in an effort to prevent animals from entering the shelter system entirely. Our Spay/Neuter Program provided free spay/neuter services to residents in East St. Louis, as well as free transportation to and from appointments.
Then, in response to bitter cold temperatures and dogs left outside in the elements, the Community Outreach program was formed in 2013. Arming community members with dog houses, tie-outs, bowls, leashes, collars, and other supplies, it is easier for pet owners to care for their animals.
In 2014, we started hosting annual vaccination clinics in our service area. We also created the East Side Pet Crisis Fund to assist families in the Metro East with emergency veterinary care. The following year, we also started our Trap-Neuter-Return Program to help address the overpopulation of homeless cats in the community. In 2016, we partnered with Bi-State Pet Food Pantry to bring a satellite pet food distribution center to East St. Louis.
In March 2019, Gateway Pet Guardians purchased the former Miles Davis Elementary School after many years of looking for the perfect building and location. We renovated the building to become the area’s first Pet Resource Center, bringing all of our services into the heart of the community we serve. The 54,000 square foot building includes a Healthy Pet Clinic, Pet Spa, Retail Space, and Adoption Floor.
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