Crowded animal shelters prompt temporary surrender restriction

Starting Wednesday, the Contra Costa County Animal Services Department will be turning away people trying to surrender animals at its Martinez and Pinole shelters.

The temporary measure was introduced because of the high volume of animals currently at both facilities, according to the department.

The freeze, which has certain exceptions based on the health and age of animals, is expected to be in place for about a month. However, the department also announced a permanent change by closing its night deposit boxes for animals surrendered during off-hours.

The agency will still accept strays, injured or abandoned animals, as well as animals confiscated as a result of active investigations.

"Surrendering an animal to the shelter should be a last resort," animal services director Beth Ward said in a statement.

"High owner surrender rates leads to overpopulation in our shelters, which increases the possibilities that animals will get disease (or) experience behavior problems," Ward said.

The department plans on developing an intervention program to help support families keeping their animals in their homes.