WACO, Texas — The Humane Society of Central Texas is once again at capacity, with 473 dogs available for adoption.
267 of them stay with a foster family but the shelter is still crowded with more than 200 on-site.
"Our intake numbers have been just unbelievably high," Shelter Behavior and Enrichment Specialist Mike Gray told 25 News. "In the three years I've been here, the amount of dogs being brought into the shelter, it's never been like this before."
Those numbers continue to climb and the shelter has had to start pairing up dogs in cages just to have extra room.
"We never had to double up dogs before," Gray said. "The last thing we ever want to do is lose a dog and we will do everything we can to not let that happen."
The high number of dogs at the shelter is a result of both an increase in strays and in people returning pets shortly after adopting.
"People adopt, keep them for a couple of days, then bring them back to the shelter," Gray said. " So don't really give them time to adjust, decompress, be like okay everything's okay now, this is my new life and I need to act right."
Experts say it can take shelter pets up to three months to adjust to a new home.
"They are going to want to learn your schedule, your routine, and the people there," Executive Director of White Haven Canine Evaluators Alan White said. "After about two to three weeks, they'll start calming down more and accepting the new environment> as their home. They will start relaxing and get back to the normal activities of a dog."
Being brought back to a shelter can cause stress for dogs and make it harder to adjust each time they're adopted.
"It's very stressful on a dog," White said. "It changes their personality the longer they're here."
On top of being patient with rescue dogs, people can also help the shelter by making sure their own pets are secured inside or in their yards and that they are spayed or neutered.
"We get all of these dogs that get brought into the shelter and they're not spayed or neutered so who knows how many litters of puppies those dogs have had, not because they're being bred but because they're just running wild and they're getting puppies that way," Gray said.
The shelter is waiving all adoption fees through Saturday. People can also foster a pet, which is free. The Humane Society also covers the cost of food and any medical expenses.