CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (CBS SF) — The Contra Costa County Animal Services Department has started 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 recent stormy weather in the Bay Area has been a contributing factor to the overcrowding.

“People have gates that blow open, fences that fall down,” said Ward. “And some have an outdoor dog because of a behavior challenge and they don’t want it indoors and they feel guilty and surrender it ”

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

“We need owners to help rehome their animals rather than bringing animals down to the shelter and surrendering them,” said Ward.

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