When the Harris County Animal Shelter, Houston, gave a chance for people to surrender their pets back to the shelter on Tuesday, they didn’t expect the two and a half hours long line.

From little dogs in crates to furry creatures tied in leashes, the line wasn’t just long, but also versatile.

“There is a 2 1/2 hr wait today to surrender an animal at Harris County Animal Shelter. That is how many animals we are receiving!” the shelter wrote on Facebook.

“If people can’t wait or don’t want to wait they tying them up to a tree and leaving or abandoning them in a box in our parking lot.”

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With almost 530 animals, mostly dogs, in the shelter, the shelter has pushed well beyond its maximum capacity of 200.

“We currently have been hovering around 500 animals at any given time since the beginning of summer,” Kerry McKeel, spokesperson for the shelter said. “It is a capacity crisis for Harris County Animal Shelter.”

The main reason, according to the shelter staff, that people are giving up on their pets is the difficulty of having an animal in your home.

“The most common reasons we have received are tied to lifestyle changes — moving, the landlord will not allow, can no longer afford,” McKeel said. “Some people also simply say that they no longer want the pet or that they found the pet.”

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But the shelter is far from giving up hope. They are still maintaining their 90 percent lifesaving rate, even if it requires them to keep five to six animals in one kennel.

Since it is a municipal shelter, it needs to take in all the surrendered animals, no matter their breed, temperament or health. During summertime, the shelter is used to having hundreds of new animals every week.

“Summer is traditionally our busiest intake season, partially due to the year-round breeding season in Texas,” McKeel said. “We receive a lot of unwanted litters of puppies and kittens.”

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The shelter staff has to deal with heartbreak every day. Most of the pets don’t really know they are being abandoned. So when they are suddenly dragged away from their parents, it’s extremely distressing for everyone involved.

“This man drug SIX dogs into the shelter with his 10-year-old son, surrendering them because they were ‘moving,'” Urgent Shelter Pets Houston wrote in a Facebook post. “All of which could have been avoided had their dog likely been spayed/neutered from the beginning.”

Here’s one of those heartbreaking scenes.

The staff got a break on Wednesday, but they know that peace won’t last forever.

McKeel said:

“We anticipate that tomorrow will be another high-intake day since we were closed for intake today and since we will be going into a holiday week next week.”

The shelter is urging the community to take part in more adoption and fostering processes. Even if a person agrees to keep pets for a few weeks, it contributes greatly on a macro scale and frees up space for other pets in need.

McKeel is also trying to warn the community about the importance of keeping dogs on leashes. This will prevent them from being lost and ending up in the streets. “More than half of the animals at the shelter are strays,” McKeel said. “Less than 10 percent have identification (tags or microchip) preventing the ability for the shelter with a way to reunite lost pets with owners.”

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