NIXA, Mo. -- Animal advocates say overpopulation is a crisis with no end in sight. Every year, about 8 million strays or unwanted pets across the country go to shelters. Nearly half never leave.
Across the Ozarks, many no-kill shelters have waiting lists. The overpopulation has lead to another problem: animal dumping.
In the last six weeks, six dogs and two kittens were dumped on the doorstep of the Cobblestone Veterinary Hospital. Some arrive in baskets, others in kennels, but all the animals need a good home.
"It's a shame that people do this," said S.J. Rhoades, an employee at Cobblestone Veterinary Hospital. "This is a huge problem."
Many of the dogs dropped off were sick and needed medical care. In total, the hospital spent over $2,000.
"We spade, neutered, vaccinated. Boarding. They were ill and we have to give them medicine. It is a lot of cost, it is a lot of time, and it is a lot of responsibility. And if people would just start spay and neutering their pets, we would not have this problem," said Rhoades.
According to statistics from PETA, the people for the ethical treatment of animals, one dog and her pups can produce 67,000 puppies in six years. One cat and her offspring could 370,000 kittens in seven years. Many of those animals may be neglected, abused, or euthanized due to overpopulation.
For more information on low-cost spay and neutering services, click here.
"Just because they are little and they are fuzzy doesn't mean they are going to get adopted. It doesn't mean that they are wanted. Just like these guys," Rhoades explained, pointing to the kittens. "They are unwanted and they are somebody's problem now."
Abandoning animals is illegal in Missouri. Many other towns, like Nixa, also have laws on the books preventing it. Punishment can range from a fine to jail time.
"People think that by dropping them off at a vet's office, you are making provisions for their care. But it's not necessarily provisions for their care, just assuming they're a vets office, and they can care for them," said B.J. Sartin, Nixa Animal Control Officer. "Abandoning them on their doorsteps is not communicating with them. It's still abandonment of an animal and it is a criminal offense."
In the two incidents at Cobblestone Veterinary Hospital, the crimes were caught on tape. In one case, surveillance cameras clearly show a car drive up around 6:30 a.m. A woman gets out with the basket of animals and leaves them on the doorstep. She then drives away.
"It's not responsible, your animal is going to sit there and wait for you to come back. It's sad, it's so sad," emphasized Rhoades. "It's illegal, it's not fair, it's not right and a lot of people need to own up to their responsibilities and take care of their animals."
For information on animal adoption or shelter services, click here for the Humane Society of the Ozarks.
Misdemeanor charges of animal abandonment are expected. Animal Control officers say they have two persons of interest and plan to city those responsible.