Focusing on the Community: Our Progress in East St. Louis
I thought it was time to announce/update everyone on our progress in East St. Louis. We are making some great progress regarding the welfare of animals in the community! First, for those that don’t know me, my name is Jamie Case and I am the Executive Director of Gateway Pet Guardians.
As most of you know, East St. Louis, IL has been our service area for well over 15 years. PJ Hightower started feeding the strays on the streets in the mid 90’s and hasn’t missed a day since 2001! In 2004, GPG incorporated and today, we are rescuing a record number of animals both from the streets and out of St. Clair County Animal Control. In addition, we have an active team of Junior Pet Guardians (teens in the community that are becoming advocates for animals), Community Outreach Volunteers and a successful spay/neuter clinic. With this multi-faceted approach, we have and will continue to make a tremendous impact on the animals in the area.
Our mission is to end homelessness for animals in the Metro East through rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, community outreach and education.
Since the end of 2012, we have been working closely with St. Clair County Animal Control and have built a fantastic relationship to allow us to save more animals. In 2013, we transferred over 70 dogs from them that were in jeopardy of being euthanized. The lines of communication are open with them and we are working together on numerous projects to impact the community including a large “Responsible Pet Ownership” event taking place May 10. More information on that a little later in this post.
2013 was an incredible year for us here at Gateway Pet Guardians! We almost doubled the amount of animals rescued from 2012, ran numerous successful spay/neuter clinics (sterilizing over 150 animals from East St. Louis and Washington Park), grew each one of our internal programs (foster, shelter, volunteer, community outreach and Junior Pet Guardians) and hit the ground running with street-level outreach. In addition, we started an Advisory Board in late 2013. This group of professionals meets quarterly to discuss how to further our reach in the community and take it to the next level. Julia Mittelstadt, founder of GPG leads the group of advisors. This group is comprised of community leaders, media personalities, business owners/managers, business partners and supporters.
One of the members of our Advisory Board is Lauren Parks, Executive Assistant to the Mayor of East St. Louis. She took note of all of our hard work in her community and helped push our efforts to a new level! In January, we had a meeting of the minds with numerous local officials, the police department and animal control. What was the focus? Animals running at large in their community! WOW! This is a topic that gets brought up at most city council meetings and they want us, GPG to be a part of the solution! What an honor! After a few long meetings, we came up with some fantastic solutions/plans/ideas and I am here to share some of them with you.
We could NOT be more excited and proud to be working closely with the city to hopefully eliminate (or at least significantly reduce) the number of homeless animals on the streets!
First, one of the conversations we had with the city (that was brought up by another Advisory Board member) was that the city had BSL (breed specific legislation). This is actually illegal in the state of Illinois and the city was quick to call in their city attorney and rewrite the laws. FIRST BIG WIN… educate on breeds and eliminate discriminatory language against breeds such as pit bulls and rottweilers.
Next, tackle the containment problem (which of course circles back to spay/neuter). When females are in heat, it draws male dogs from miles away. If dogs aren’t contained, they end up packing up and following the female. When animal control receives calls about packs of dogs, they pick them up, the owners often don’t know who to call to find their dog, the dog is now at risk of becoming a statistic with the state. There are multiple solutions here. First and foremost, the police and city employees must cite owners for not following the laws in place, most importantly, the leash and tagging laws. SECOND BIG WIN… police and government will begin citing and ticketing dogs running at large without their city tags beginning July 1. We have their full cooperation and know this will begin to curb the problem.
Now, how do we get the word out? We are all about educated and notifying community about responsible pet ownership. Beginning March 29, we will begin canvassing efforts, going door to door to let residents know that the gavel comes down July 1. However, to be in compliance, they can head up to City Hall to get their tags. To get their tags, they need to have a rabies vaccination. We will be providing them with potential resources to get those vaccinations done. In addition, we have dedicated two days to City Hall where we will be promoting spay/neuter to everyone that comes to register their pet.
Ahhh, spay and neuter, we haven’t forgotten about you. I am saving the best (and most important) for last. In the month of June, with the collaborative effort of OpSpot, the Carol House Quick Fix Clinic and the city of East St. Louis, we will be spaying and neutering 125 dogs! For those of you that work with us often, THAT’S A LOT! Here’s a fun fact. An unaltered male and an unaltered female along with their unaltered offspring can produce 67,000 offspring in just six years time! These are very real numbers in a community where the majority of animals are not sterilized.
Rounding out this entire effort is a very big community event on May 10 at Lincoln Park in East St. Louis. Thousands of community members will be in attendance and WE will have a big presence there! We will set up shop with a “Responsible Pet Ownership” tent and provide more resources and information that anyone will know what to do with! Residents can bring their family pet to receive free rabies and microchips (compliments of St. Clair County – big thanks to Jim at Animal Control for making that happen!), they can receive food samples and information on the Bi-State Pet Food Pantry, children can enjoy a kids corner where our Junior Pet Guardians will be sharing their knowledge about how to handle a strange dog in their neighborhood and of course we will be there to promote and schedule our spay/neuters for June! Additionally, we will have training information and other “goodies” for them to walk away with all in the name of responsible animal ownership!
Whew, I am getting so pumped just thinking about it! It is going to be a great spring for us at GPG and we would love for you to lend a hand to help in our efforts! We are looking for volunteers to help canvass, work the spay/neuter tables in City Hall, at the May 10 event and much more. Please email me if you are interested in helping and we will work you in!
Thank you all for your support and dedication to Gateway Pet Guardians! We are looking forward to a successful 2014 where many, MANY more lives will be saved and unwanted litters prevented!
– Much love, Jamie Case
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