Come on down to Meowtown: Newly formed lake animal rescue aims to help stray populations

A trio of kittens pose for a photo in the Meowtown shelter.

There’s no doubt in the minds of lake area pet lovers that local shelters are in need of help. With dog and cat populations overcrowding shelters across the area, the need for donations and adoption are at a high. For over 30 years, Tom and Toni Schroeter have attempted to aid in solving this problem.

Fostering for many organizations in both the St. Louis and lake areas, the pair have worked to help care for animals independently. In October 2019, they took the next step in their volunteering efforts to create Meowtown Animal Rescue.

Based in their main business location of Lake Patio & Spas in Lake Ozark, the couple have been taking in stray cats, dogs and other needing animals into a shelter location they’ve built by hand in the basement area of the business. The makeshift shelter currently houses over 30 cats that are being cared for, fed and socialized with the goal of eventually finding a new home.

The COVID pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for the new organization, however, as Meowtown has had to fund much of their care out of pocket. Even so, they have continued to take in new animals in need and have even launched a new senior dog project, taking in dogs with health issues or that have been abandoned due to age.

A main focus point for Meowtown is the resocializing of feral cats. Toni says that she is the feral cat whisperer, while Tom is the kitten expert. Meowtown volunteer Marge Elrod helps live trap feral cats for the couple to adopt and either nurse back to health or help socialize for a new home. She also helps the couple with caring for the sheltered animals.

Tom says that when a new cat comes in, the first thing they will do is take them to a vet for a round of basic medical needs (shots, fixing, etc.). If the animal is injured, they will work with the vet to rehabilitate until a new home is ready to take them in for good.

“We’ve had ‘em all in here, from hours old to old kitties. We don’t wanna see any of them out on the street,” Tom said.

Toni says that, overall, the goal is to help animals. When the decision to finally create Meowtown came in October, she says they hoped to change a mentality. She says they try to speak with any owner with a litter of kittens or a mother cat and help them get the animal spayed and neutered. This is also a goal echoed by the shelters in the area, with many hosting free or reduced cost clinics for the operation throughout the year.

“We try to do as much as we can to help the stray population down here,” Toni said. “

To help rebuild exhausted funds, Meowtown will be holding a number of events soon that will benefit the cause. On July 17, they will be hosting a dinner benefit at Margaritaville in the Compass Rose Ballroom, doors at 6:00 p.m. and dinner at 7:00 p.m. They will also be hosting an online auction from July 8 - 15 accessible on the Meowtown website, The finale to this auction will be concluded online and in person at the Margaritaville event. The group is still looking for cash sponsors and donors for the auction.