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Metro East Animal Rescue Addresses Increase In Strays With Free Spay And Neuter Program

Gateway Pet Guardians has launched a free in-house spay and neuter program to help reduce the growing number of unwanted litters and pets.
Gateway Pet Guardians
Gateway Pet Guardians has launched a free in-house spay and neuter program to help reduce the growing number of unwanted litters and pets.

An animal rescue organization in the Metro East is working to lower the number of unwanted litters and pets in shelters by addressing the root cause of the problem—unspayed and unneutered pets.

Gateway Pet Guardians launched the program this summer with the goal to spay and neuter 500 Metro East pets by the end of the year. A $15,000 grant through the BISSELL Pet Foundation is supporting the effort.

Community director Jill Henke said the spay and neuter program is designed to be barrier free, including transportation to and from the shelter for the surgery. She said the program is also providing other services that can be costly for many pet owners.

“Part of the incentive for the free spay neuter package is not only do they get the free spay neuter, but we do include vaccinations, a microchip, a nail trim, all of those things come with our spay neuter package as well, which kind of sweetens the deal,” Henke said.

Gateway Pet Guardians serves communities including East St. Louis, Cahokia Heights, Washington Park and Fairmont City. Henke said the program is geared towards pet owners who are already struggling financially to take care of themselves as well as the pets they already have.

“It really allows us to connect with pet lovers in our community that really love their pet and want to take good care of them,” Henke said. “But sometimes getting their pets spayed, neutered or vaccinated or microchipped is out of reach simply because of cost constraints or transportation issues.”

Gateway Pet Guardians is one of the many animal rescue organizations and shelters across the country dealing with overcrowding of unhoused pets. Tori Allen, a spokesperson for the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said although overcrowding is happening all over the country, the Midwest and southeast are problem areas.

“This is something that we at the BISSELL Pet Foundation are constantly combating,” Allen said. “We are working to transport pets around. Yes, puppies and kittens are extremely cute, but they are costly. They need a lot of vaccines. They need a lot of early veterinary care.”

Part of the problem, Allen said, is that some families with unspayed or unneutered pets don’t think it will become a problem later down the road.

“But sometimes things happen and families do find themselves with extra litters of kittens and puppies and it becomes a community issue,” Allen said. “Now what do you do with these pets?”

Gateway Pet Guardians intake numbers for rescue are up 70% over last year. Henke said it’s affected staff and volunteers nationwide.

“We’re really just trying to keep our heads above water,” Henke said. “So spaying and neutering pets really does help us feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that we’re eventually going to be able to see our way out of these significant overpopulation issues that we see with pets.”

The BISSELL Pet foundation also is funding other clinics throughout the country to alleviate that concern.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.