Holiday brings seasonal influx of abandoned pets to shelters

It happens every year. The Contra Costa Animal Services Shelter in Martinez gets an influx of dogs, sometimes referred to as the "holiday dog dump."

The shelter's new director, Beth Ward, doesn't care for the term.

"It just an unfortunate series of events that makes for overcrowding this time of year," Ward explained. "It's the holiday season. We have people that make assumptions that this is a good time, I should probably not keep my pet, so let me bring it down see if it can find a good home for the holidays."

Because the shelter is obligated to take in animals from across most of Contra Costa County, it creates overcrowding. The reasons vary from the extreme -- not wanting to pay for boarding a pet while away for the holidays -- to life changes, like having to move to a place where pets aren't allowed.

"People don't always make the best decisions," Ward said. "But the majority of people are doing things because they care."

The reality is, not all dogs get adopted.

"You're looking at approximately seven of every ten dogs are able to find homes," Ward said. What happens to the other three? "The other three, they might be euthanized," she explained.

Last week, the shelter took in 49 dogs on one day alone. KTVU was there Tuesday afternoon went an abandoned pit bull was brought in by Jonathan Wright. He found the dog hungry, with infected eyes and mange.

The animal clearly was not loved or cared for by her owners, yet still craved human attention.

"Oh! It breaks my heart," Wright said. "I just wish people had more respect."

Gary Rice came to the shelter Tuesday morning to find a dog to replace the one his ex-wife got in the divorce.

"This is the new Spike," Rice said smiling as he held a tiny pinscher mix with ears so big they resembled a rabbit's. "He's going to be a great companion!"

When asked why he wanted to adopt a dog from the shelter, Rice replied, "It's kind of heartbreaking so see all these dogs. If you can just help them out, all they want to do is live."

Though dogs are most overcrowded at Contra Costa Animal Services this time of year, the cat cages are full too.

Kristina Hackyard and her son Nicholas Barefield came to look for something very specific.

"The one that's been here the longest," Hackyard said. They want to save an older female cat from being euthanized.

"You know, people spend Thanksgiving being grateful for everything that they have and then they spend Black Friday pushing people out of the way to get to sales for things that they don't' need," Hackyard said, her eyes getting teary. "We have some struggles and it means more to us to do something like this."

The mother and son left with Theona, a 10-year-old tabby and adopted a friend for her, too.

"We want to take somebody who needs it," she said.

Ward has been on the job as director of the shelter for less than a month, and said she wants to make changes to make adoption easier.

If you are looking for a new companion, Contra Costa Animal Services is holding a "Black Fur Day" $10 adoption sale Saturday, November 28th. For details click here.