“We have 252 animals in here and that number increases all the time,” Cassidy said.

Shelters across the lake area are seeing extreme overpopulation issues. Even with one of the highest capacities, Dogwood Animal Shelter in Osage Beach is maxing out the room they have to bring in animals from the cold weather. Judy Cassidy, director of the shelter, says that the problems facing overpopulation are not new, but could certainly be helped. 

“We have 252 animals in here and that number increases all the time,” Cassidy said. 

Cassidy says that the shelter receives call frequently from animal control asking to take in more dogs and cats that have been left behind. Unfortunately, with the capacity levels already at hand, Dogwood has to turn many away. They then turn to calling other local shelters to see if they have availability, but the story is the same. Lake shelters are filling too quickly to accommodate. 

When asked what she believed the leading cause for this problem is, the answer was quick and clear. 

“People need to spay and neuter their pets” Cassidy said. “It’s important that we continue to educate the public as to why this is important.”

She says that many owners will fight against spaying and neutering for a number of reasons, such as personality changes in the pets or need to breed. Cassidy says that, in these cases, the shelter is responsible to continue explaining and providing resources to show the benefits. First of which is the problem that is so apparent in overpopulation of shelter space. 

Dogwood offers reduced cost spaying and neutering clinics, as do many other shelters in the area. This clinic allows for shelters to get ahead of the problems while also providing the resources at a reduced rate to those who want to take that step. However, this bleeds into another problem seen by local shelters which is affording these services.

Between paying doctors, feeding sheltered animals, hiring help and more, the funds available to maintain and run shelters is at a premium. Cassidy says they see a lot of funding from fundraising efforts and donations, but at the rate that animals are being delivered from abandoned litters and strays, it’s becoming an ever growing issue to fund these needs. 

Blue Moon Sanctuary is another local animal care group seeing the effects of overpopulation taking a toll on their operations. Foster home owner Judy Laber says that the sanctuary also offers spay and neuter clinics. Last year alone, they payed for around 350 animals to receive the service. 

Laber says that Blue Moon takes in animals that may have trouble ever finding a home, due to injury or sickness. More than anything, she says that they work towards providing a home for animals in need. She agrees that the overpopulation issues seen at the lake stem from a lack of spaying and neutering, but she believes the end to the issue starts with conversation. 

“I don’t know what to do about it sometimes, it feels like an endless problem,” Laber said. “People need to talk to one another about spaying and neutering their pets. That’s where we can make change.”

Laber says that, with so many low cost options around the lake, there is little excuse not to take this step. Though she says Blue Moon will always do what they can to provide services for animals and owners at the lake, it may soon come to a point where the funds run out and the help available with diminish. 

“It’s heartbreaking to tell people we are too full,” Laber said. “We want to help them all, but we just can’t.” 

For those looking to help, Dogwood and many shelters across the lake are always accepting volunteering hours. To sign up, or to find out times for spaying and neutering clinics, community members are advised to check the websites of whichever clinic is local and refer to the services available at each.