Local organizations fight animal overpopulation

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COLUMBIA - As the warm weather approaches, the number of unwanted litters increases, putting a burden on local shelters.

"Dogs and cats can reproduce year round, but prime breeding time is early spring through late fall," Michelle Casey, the associate director of the Central Missouri Humane Society, said. 

Jill Swain, a Board Member at No Kill Columbia, said her clinic sees animals who need spay/neuter services everyday. The clinic has treated more than 5,000 animals since it opened in April 2015.

"We have people that are traveling over an hour to get here for our services."

The local organizations are trying to use events and pricing specials during National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month in February to get the word out about the importance of spay and neutering animals.

No Kill Columbia is hosting its annual "Spay-Ghetti Dinner" Tuesday evening as a fundraiser for its low-cost spay/neuter services at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia. The evening will also include a silent auction and bake sale.

The Central Missouri Humane Society in Columbia is offering free spay/neuter services to cats of Boone County residents and feral/ community cats as well. 

At the city level, the Columbia/Boone County Animal Control works with the Central Missouri Humane Society to provide spay/neuter vouchers for pet owners who cannot afford the surgeries. 

Casey said most local animal owners aren't sure when to have their animals spayed/neutered, which can lead to surprise litters. This contributes to the overpopulation of animals in the area. 

"Female cats can become pregnant by four months of age, dogs can become pregnant as early as five months. So some people will wait until they are a specific age and in the meantime they will end up getting pregnant."

The ASPCA estimates 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats enter animal shelters every year. Only 10 percent of those animals have been spayed or neutered, creating a cycle.

Swain said the local situation is improving but there is more work to be done.

"We certainly aren't done spaying and neutering the area."