Our History

The Story of Gateway Pet Guardians

Gateway Pet Guardians was founded in 2004 through the combined efforts of five extraordinary women with a passion for rescuing animals, but our story really began about nine years earlier.

One fateful day in 1995 while driving through East St. Louis, P.J. Hightower – an avid animal lover – took notice of the numerous stray dogs running through the streets. But instead of shaking her head in disappointment, muttering “If only I could…” and simply continuing her journey like so many before her, P.J. did something about it.

On that day and nearly every day thereafter – and every consecutive day since 2001 – P.J. has made the trip across the river from her home in St. Louis, bags of dog food in tow, and fed the dogs she saw on the streets, paying for it out of her own pocket. And so it continued for nine years. In 2004, four ladies – 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 from the horrors of street life as well as allow their own dollars to stretch that much further, and Gateway Pet Guardians was born.

Over the years our organization has blossomed into much more than its meager beginnings. With the help of volunteers, Gateway Pet Guardians began raising enough money each year to begin filing a tax return. P.J. now goes through approximately 1,000 pounds of dog food per month and Gateway Pet Guardians currently rescues over 300 dogs and cats per year. We continue to evolve from a small organization to today’s animal shelter with dozens of dedicated volunteers, an award winning documentary, and beyond to our future goal of expanding our emergency shelter and opening an education center in East St. Louis.

See how it all Began: View our Documentary Trailer