ELDON, Mo. -- Two city police officers are accused of animal abuse, being investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Animal lovers here also are concerned about how the police department has been running the city pound.
Rescue organizations from all over the state attended an Eldon Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday night to beg the city to let them help manage the shelter. It's what they say they've always done, until last August.
Rene Ward is the only employee at the Friends of Animals rescue in Eldon, and, sometimes, she isn't.
"That's just the way it is, we have animals to take care of," said Ward.
She says there are months when the thrift store doesn't bring in enough money to take home a paycheck and she, like the others who work there, is a volunteer.
"It is a passion; animal people are a strange breed," said regular volunteer Susan Villarreal.
Ward and Villarreal and dozens more say they were willing to give of their time, but suddenly the City of Eldon didn't want it anymore.
"We felt like we had been doing something to help and all of a sudden that changed," said Ward.
The Eldon city pound stopped allowing Friends of Animals to help adopt out their pets. Volunteers were rarely allowed inside, even just to check on the condition of the animals. That's when Ward says something went terribly wrong.
She wouldn't talk to a reporter because the incident is now under investigation, but she did write about it on her Facebook page.
Two dogs were caged together while the female was in heat. When they mated, Ward wrote, Eldon police officers pulled them apart, ripping off part of the male dog's genitals. Both animals were euthanized.
"It was enough to make me think there's a better way, things like that can't happen," Ward said in an interview on Wednesday.
Even after a city meeting on Tuesday night in which officials promised to make the shelter more accessible, at least one person still fears the worst.
"The hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.," said Mary Isaac, who volunteers to exercise the shelter dogs.
Wednesday evening, she had the same idea as a reporter -- to stop by -- but it was closed when both arrived at 5:30.
"Very disappointing; very, very disappointing," Isaac said.
Ward is trying to remain optimistic but she's frustrated. With or without a paycheck, taking care of animals is her fulltime job.
"I think they forgot how important it was to include rescue members and community members," she said.
The police chief did not return a reporter's calls on Wednesday. This week, though, he did tell a lake-area newspaper reporter that he was unaware there had been an incident at the pound, and it's now being investigated by the Highway Patrol. He did not identify the officers involved.