Kevin McClintock: We must prevent illegal dumping of pets

Dumping pets has become an epidemic; only a concerted educational effort by animal shelters can turn the tide. Here, a sign outside Faithful Friends Animal Advocates educate people about the penalties of dumping an unwanted pet.Globe | Kevin McClintock

There are two kinds of owners who dump their pets, shelter managers will tell you.

The first are the so-called “humane dumpers.” Take note, of course, that I use the word “humane” very loosely here. What I mean is the people who decide to get rid of their dogs or cats, kittens or puppies, aren’t completely devoid of all human compassion or emotion. They will drive out to a rural farm before dumping their once-loved pets.

They choose farms because they know (hope?) the animals will be taken in and cared for by the men and women who own or operate said farms. Unfortunately, what they don’t seem to understand — or even care to understand — is that they’re simply pushing their responsibilities onto other people, people who already have their plates full and never asked for these added headaches in the first place.

Thank goodness these kind souls do end up shouldering the responsibilities, that they do save the scared pets and do eventually turn them over to area animal shelters for safekeeping.

And I truly believe if there were just the humane dumpers out there in the world and nothing else, shelter managers such as Nicole Porter, who oversees Faithful Friends Animal Advocates in Neosho, could manage the situation. Maybe even reverse it.

But they can’t. Because there’s a second type of pet dumpers out there. The really, really bad kind.

“The other type of people — well, I don’t know what to call them; there is a special place for them,” Porter said with a knowing look. “These are the people who will put a litter of kittens or puppies into a box, tape it shut and then dump them on the side of a highway or over a bridge.”

Yeah, there are no words for these type of sick individuals. Absolutely none. I can’t even imagine such cruelty — to even try to imagine being in their skins and thinking like they do is absolutely foreign to me and to Porter as well. It’s simply not in our DNA to think such things.

Sadly, good people such as Porter do have to think of such things because they see it all the time; it’s a growing problem here in the Four-State Area, with little signs of stopping.

“We had four dumped litters in a 10-day period just recently,” Porter told me on Thursday when I visited the shelter. “That’s just us. I can’t imagine what the other centers have had.

“And then imagine the (litters) who are never found, especially if people are taking the boxes way out to the middle of nowhere to dump them.”

The one bright take in all of this is that good people are stumbling across these boxed-up puppies and kittens and rescuing them in the nick of time. For example, Porter said an unknown individual had dumped a sealed box of five puppies on the side of busy I-44 near the I-249 exit. A man who just happened to pull over to the side of the road to make a phone call — because he didn’t want to carry on a conversation while driving — took notice of it after a bit. Why? Because the box, he later told Porter, was moving. He exited his car to take a closer look. Sure enough, inside were five terrified pups.

“That, to me, was a grace from God,” Porter said — that the stranger just happened to pull over at that exact moment, at that exact mile marker, to make his phone call, right there in front of where the box had been dumped.

It’s doubtful the pups would have survived much longer inside the box.

When I asked her why these individuals seal the box when they obviously don’t care what happens to the living creatures inside, she could only shrug: “Maybe it’s for fear that the (pups) will get out and walk out into traffic? Regardless, the dogs (inside the box) could be hit by a car, or they could be blown away by a passing truck. I wish I knew if it was malice or a hint of compassion. I just don’t know. I’ve never met someone who’s done something like that.”

Another dumped box of puppies — nine this time — was discovered by a Missouri Department of Transportation worker on Highway 60. The pups were in pretty bad shape when they came to FFAA for treatment — three of the pups eventually died. And a day later, a third litter was found dumped near a pond — not in a box this time but thrown into a bale of hay. The farmer who owned the land just happened to come across them. They were barely 3 weeks old and could hardly move. It was a miracle, Porter said, that the farmer found them, almost as if he and all the others are being guided to the stranded animals.

“If (the farmer) hadn’t found them, they would have perished — easy.”

Less than an hour after I left the FFAA shelter on Thursday, Porter posted on Facebook that someone had driven up to the shelter’s front gate and tossed a 13-week-old puppy into the shelter’s donation bin before speeding away. The dog was starved, and thankfully, her cries were heard. In the video posted on the shelter’s Facebook page, the poor little guy was seen wolfing down food. I’m happy to report she’s receiving plenty of TLC from FFAA staff.

What these people who dump these animals don’t seem to understand is that it is illegal to do so — whether it’s at a shelter’s front gate, a farmer’s pasture or the side of busy I-44. As of Jan. 1, 2017, intentionally releasing an animal is a Class B misdemeanor (up to six months in jail and a monetary fine not to exceed $1,000), unless the perpetrator previously been found guilty of a violation, and it suddenly morphs into a Class E felony, which has a prison term of up to four years.

“If you see someone dumping an animal,” Porter said, “always take a picture of their license plate. The police can work with that.”

When she said that, I mentally kicked myself. I had a run-in with a young couple in a pickup truck about a mile from the shelter in Pittsburg, Kansas, several years ago, and I chased after them after they threw a cat out the side door (not one of my better moments, I’ll admit). I should have just calmly used my phone to snap a pic of their plate and backed away.

“I just don’t think people realize that (dumping) is illegal,” Porter said.

And that’s really the key to all of this, Porter stressed: education — educating the masses about dumping, the horrible effects it can have on the animals and the life-changing penalties that come with such an act. It would also educate these owners who threaten to dump their animals when they call FFAA or other area shelters when those shelters are at capacity and simply can’t taken in any more animals. A countywide spay and neuter system would also be key. Sadly, many people don’t even know what “spay” or “neuter” even mean. I know, it sounds absurd, but Porter swears to it.

“The more we can get people to take care of their animals, the more less dumping there will be,” she said.

So keep vigilant, keep your camera at the ready and always scrutinize any box you see at the side of the road.

Because you just never, ever know.

Address correspondence to Kevin McClintock, c/o The Joplin Globe, Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email kmcclintock@joplinglobe.com.