CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Every year, Nueces County Animal Services sees an increased number of stray and surrendered pets coming into its shelter during the holidays.
But this year, the spike is even steeper and shelter leaders believe it is a statewide problem.
"It’s been worse this year, and we do believe it’s due to the (COVID-19) pandemic," Nueces County Animal Services Volunteer Live Release Coordinator Lisa Bockholt said. "People have been out of work and losing jobs and have had to give up family pets."
The NCAS shelter has 20 active kennels, and more than one dog or cat can occupy a kennel at a time.
But with a high number of animals coming in -- 15 of them Monday afternoon alone -- there is only so much room.
“If the shelter fills up, unfortunately euthanasia becomes necessary," Buckholt said. "That’s why we’re struggling so hard to avoid that situation. We don’t want to see that happen."
Dog owner E.J. Garza does not want to see that happen either.
“It breaks my heart," Garza said. "But I do see that there is a problem with stray dogs in the area."
Garza and his wife adopted their dog, Emmie, five years ago at a shelter in Houston.
He says he loves Emmie so much that he got the dog's face tattooed on his arm.
Garza thinks other people will have a similar experience if they adopt, and he says they would be helping out shelters at the same time.
“It’s the best decision we’ve ever made,” he said. “(Emmie) was immediately just part of our family. She brought me and my wife closer together — something to bond over."
Buckholt sees that same bond happen often between pets in her shelter and future dog-parents.
But even with the shelter filling up fast, she urges people to make sure they are ready for the responsibilities of pet ownership before adopting.
"We do not want people to adopt if their intentions are not to give the animal a permanent, loving, forever home,” she said.
If you need help caring for your pet, Nueces County Animal Services may be able to help through the agency's Facebook page.