EAST ST. LOUIS — Alisha Vianello is the executive director of the nonprofit Gateway Pet Guardians in East St. Louis.  She’s heartbroken over an overnight break-in that resulted in the theft of laptops and other items.

“It’s just really hurtful to know that someone would come in and take things from us when we give so much to people and pets,” Vianello said.

The animal welfare organization shared surveillance images of the suspects on Thursday.  They also took some pet medicine.

“No controlled substances,” said Vianello. “They were all put away, so it’s just things for allergies, pain, or anxiety.”

She said the thieves also stopped to eat some leftover pizza from the refrigerator. 

“There are nonprofit places that give away free food,” said Sue Slaughter, a Madison County resident who turns to Gateway Pet Guardians for cat food.  “You don’t need to steal from the animals.”

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The crime comes at a time when pet overpopulation has reached a crisis level in the St. Louis area. Vianello said volunteering, adopting, and fostering are all ways the community can help.  She said community members can also provide support through donations.

“We want to get some better lights, cameras and security, so we’re looking for donations for that or helping us replace the lost things,” Vianello said.  

Gateway Pet Guardians provides resources for pet owners in areas where few are available.  According to Vianello, the East St. Louis community is a pet-loving community that has appreciated those services.  She believes the suspects do not have local ties.

“It stinks when you’re a nonprofit and then something like this happens,” said Vianello.  “It hurts but the community is wonderful and rallying behind us.”