Although some Missouri families are finding it more difficult to provide for household pets, choosing to abandon animals, which often die of starvation, is not a legal option. State laws protect animals from neglect, abandonment and abuse.
Missouri residents who neglect or abandon an animal can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by imprisonment and up to $500 in fines. Individuals who kill, injure or cause suffering to a dog or cat or knowingly fail to provide adequate care for a dog or cat can also be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor.
The state's animal neglect and abuse statutes also protect animals that have been abandoned. According to the law, stray animals cannot be killed unless they are threatening injury to a person or livestock.
Individuals who find a stray animal on their property can call Haven of the Ozarks at 835-3647. The local no-kill shelter will accept stray dogs and cats when space is available at the facility.
Barry County does not operate a county facility for stray animals.
"Animal shelters are very expensive to operate," said Barry County Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren. "When we looked into this, we found out that it would cost around $300,000 per year to run.
"With our finances the way they are, there is no way the county would be able to get involved in running an animal shelter at this time," said Warren. "The funds are just not available."
Individuals who are no longer able to care for their household pet should call the Southwest Missouri Humane Society in Springfield at 417-833-2526 or the Good Shepherd Humane Society in Eureka Springs, Ark., at 479-253-9188.