Heartbroken and furious, Dunedin residents are calling for change after being told their beloved missing pets were "dumped at the landfill".
One of those pet parents was Mornington resident Chelsea Evans, who's criticised the policy as "heartless".
Her cat, Patrick, didn't come home last Sunday. After doorknocking and contacting the SPCA, she was told to contact contractors Downer, which manages the roading maintenance in the city.
"The guy said to me, in his own words: 'We don't have your cat anymore, we dumped him at the landfill'. He said, 'We class them as pests'," Ms Evans told Newshub.
Ms Evans said she was stunned someone would be so brutal.
"I thought, 'Are you serious?'. That's so heartless... It was awful, I had no words."
Patrick was rescued by Ms Evans' family when she was a teenager and was around 12 years old when he went missing.
"I just wanted closure, to be able to bring him home and to be able to bury him," she said.
Patrick's sad fate isn't what happens to every pet unlucky on the road. SPCA Otago's chief executive Sarah McSkimming told Newshub while they don't actively recover deceased animals, like the Dunedin City Council does, they do keep a hold of any which come their way.
The animals are kept on ice for a period of time so owners can identify their pets and when reuniting them with their owners, an SPCA staff member makes little bouquets of flowers and blankets to go with them.
"We keep them here and look after them, if they come into the SPCA," Ms McSkimming said.
"It would be nice if other organisations treated animals as we treated them.
"It's someone's loved pet. It's traumatic enough thinking your pet's passed away without having someone being unkind to you on the end of the telephone."
Another resident, Josie Harris, told Newshub when she reached Downer, it admitted its workers will bring back dead animals to "dispose" of them in the landfill.
She was told they didn't check for microchips beforehand, like the SPCA does.
"How many thousands of animals have they dumped in that dump, and leaving owners wondering where their pets are?" Ms Harris said.
"In my opinion it's a cheap way of disposing of the problem. As a pet owner, I'm horrified that that's their policy in the first instance."
Downer wouldn't comment when contacted by Newshub, instead referring to the Dunedin City Council.
Richard Saunders, Dunedin City Council's Group Manager Transport, told Newshub currently, there aren't any plans to store deceased animals or publish their details, but says the community should submit to the council if they feel strongly about the matter.
He said when a deceased dog is found, both DCC's Animal Services team and Downer will check the registration tag to try and contact the owner. Animal Services will also check for a microchip.
"When a deceased cat is found it is left by the side of the road to allow time for it to be collected by its owner. Usually the owner finds them but if this doesn't happen, it's removed," Mr Saunders said.
He was unable to comment on what happens once an animal's body is "removed".
Ms Evans is now worried about what this could mean for others whose pets have disappeared. She fears they may have been unceremoniously dumped in the landfill, like Patrick.
"There's so many animals which have been missing for months and it could turn into years, and now they know their animals may be in the landfill. It's awful."
Ms McSkimming says it's a lot easier to reunite pets with their owners if they've been microchipped, and hopes the council staff who pick up deceased animals also check for microchips.