All rescues have their niche and it’s imperative that we rescue folks are in the know so we can maximize our efforts toward the greater goal – saving animals’ lives.

Allow me to introduce Gateway Pet Guardians’s fantastic community outreach program, which, as far as I’m aware, sets the bar in the St. Louis region.

Community outreach is critical. It helps people keep their pets in their homes, or at least helps prevent animals from entering shelters unnecessarily, where chances of survival are significantly diminished, even with no-kill measures in place.

GPG serves impoverished areas of East St. Louis, including Washington Park, Lincoln Park and East St. Louis proper. My friend, Community Impact Program Lead, Natalie Creamer, heads GPG’s community outreach and the program has come a long way from its humble, grassroots inception. Natalie is an all around awesome human being; she’s smart, funny and compassionate and I adore her.

Because of the community’s compounded socioeconomic problems, many pet owners who want to do right by their pets simply can’t afford to do so. Natalie and her team work hard to provide free and reduced cost services, without judgment. I often hear people say that if you can’t afford your vet bills, you shouldn’t own a pet. I couldn’t disagree more because while we are making some pretty great progress, shelter and foster programs across the country are beyond capacity and animals are euthanized all too quickly just because of limited space. That, and it’s a pretty superior thing to say. I love how GPG does all they can to help ensure that people who love their pets can continue to provide the loving homes their companion animals deserve.

GPG just hosted their 5th vaccination clinic in Lincoln Park, where 100 dogs were inoculated with free rabies and parvo/distemper vaccinations. The program is so successful, it has become a twice-yearly event. Check out this heartwarming video produced by our beloved Julie Tristan.

GPG also facilitates free spay/neuter services through Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic. If you’re not familiar, Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic is a non-profit clinic that focuses on spay/neuter services to reduce pet overpopulation. GPG staff will even arrange transport of the animal to and from clinic.

In addition to organizing and subsidizing health care for animals, GPG partners with Bi-State Pet Food Pantry, which helps low income earners feed their pets. By the way, Bi-State Pet Food Pantry accepts food, cat litter and other supplies. If you have extras or samples lying around the house, please consider donating to them. I recently said goodbye to my sweet Annie Banannie and will be donating her unused pet gear so that a family in need can put it to good use.

Part of Natalie’s responsibilities include fielding questions and organizing services for the residents who need them. She maintains the Google voice line and fields all questions, helps people exhaust all avenues before surrendering responsibly of their animals, organizes services and directs people toward their best options. In 2016, she responded to 582 calls and the service is so valuable, they’re seeing in increase in calls. As of April 30, Natalie had responded to 150 calls.

Kindness, compassion, empathy, respect, The Golden Rule. These concepts exemplify animal welfare, and GPG’s community outreach program does just those things with their excellent customer service. Income shouldn’t be a limiting factor in pet ownership and GPG  truly makes a difference for animals and the people who love them.

If you would like to get involved in animal welfare but you’re not quite sure how, consider the important work of community outreach.