Saint Louis, June 28, 2012 – Gateway Pet Guardians, a local nonprofit animal rescue focused in the Metro East, took three high school students from East St. Louis and eight students from the Purina Pet Advocate Leadership Program (PALs) on a week-long trip to Kanab, Utah to volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary as a part of an annual program to educate youth and promote animal welfare in the students’ respective communities.

The PALs program is designed to expose high school juniors to issues facing pets in our community, and to create awareness around compassion for pets and the need for neighborhood/social change. Gateway Pet Guardians program is designed to be a similar program to focus on East St. Louis.
gateway junior pet guardiansThe students were selected from a pool of entry essays that answered the question, “What does animal welfare mean to my community and to me?” They were joined by members of Gateway Pet Guardians executive board and staff from Nestle Purina on the excursion to Kanab, keeping video diaries and social media accounts of their experiences.

While at Best Friends, the students were introduced to the realities of animal welfare and what groups are doing to achieve the ideal of no more homeless pets. They volunteered at the sanctuary with different animals each day, including rabbits, pigs, dogs, and cats. The students also gained important skills in handling rescue animals, developed leadership skills, and discovered how to become animal advocates in their own communities.

“We are very excited to launch this program in East St. Louis and St. Louis City,” said Gateway Pet Guardians President Julia Mittelstadt. “A large part of our mission, aside from rescuing animals, is to educate the people in the community we serve.  We feel that showing these kids how to become advocates in their own communities will be a huge asset in that effort.”

The group left St. Louis on June 24th and returned on July 1st.  As part of their acceptance into the program, which is ongoing throughout their high school tenure, the students are required to become community advocates once their training is complete, teaching other adults and kids in their home towns the importance of animal care.


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. Gateway Pet Guardians’ focused efforts in East St. Louis, IL and surrounding areas aim to end homelessness for animals in the Metro East through rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, and community education.  For more information about Gateway Pet Guardians, events, purchasing tickets, or to donate, volunteer, or become a foster family, visit www.gatewaypets.com.