On Friday morning, the Harris County Animal Shelter in Houston, Texas, opened its doors.
Within a few hours, 100 animals were surrendered to the shelter—a huge number for a facility that can comfortably hold 150 homeless animals at a time.
On Saturday and Sunday, another 100 abandoned stray animals were brought to the shelter.
The unexpected turnout marked the highest total intake of animals so far this year.
The shelter closed on Monday for Memorial Day, but that didn’t mean animals stopped coming. The next day, even more dogs and cats were brought to the shelter. One dog was even abandoned in the parking lot.
By the end of Tuesday, shelter workers found themselves with 375 abandoned pets, all in need of homes.
The shelter’s media specialist, Kerry McKeel, shared, “When I checked the very first thing this morning, we were at 407 animals that are available for adoption. That’s not including all the animals we currently have in foster care or in our transport section [animals that will be moved to another adoption facility] of the shelter.”
On Tuesday, the shelter posted a video on Facebook along with a plea for help.
Although this time of year is usually busy for all rescue organizations, no one had expected or prepared for the number of animals left at the Harris County shelter.
“Summertime is always busy in Texas, and Houston in particular; we always see our highest influx of animals in June, July and August,” McKeel shared. “We have a longer breeding season, so we receive a lot of puppies and kittens.”
The shelter still isn’t certain why the past weekend in particular had such a high influx of abandoned animals, but McKeel believes one of the reasons could be the area’s slow recovery from Hurricane Harvey.
“Some of the feedback we’ve been getting is that people have had ‘lifestyle changes,'” McKeel shared. “It’s hard to pinpoint it specifically being Harvey-related, but we do know that a lot of people’s lives have been flipped upside down because of Harvey — they’re moving into rental facilities where their landlords no longer allow pets, they’re moving out of town and can’t take their animal, they can’t board their animal because resources have to be diverted elsewhere.”
Foster families and transport programs that transfer animals to out-of-state adoption partners are helping the Harris County shelter cope, but more help is still needed.
The Harris County Animal Shelter is now focusing on doing everything they can for the hundreds of animals in their care.
McKeel shared, “Everyone was overwhelmed at first, but I think we have a plan in place, and now we’re in action mode. We’re trying to get as many of these animals into homes as possible, and give them a second chance.”