Guilford County, N.C. - When money gets tight, you have make choices. At first, the choices aren't that tough. You might stop buying that favorite coffee drink, or stay home instead of going to the movie theater.
Eventually, you're left with much more difficult choices... like whether to give up your pet so you can pay your bills.
The shelter has about 1500 animals right now. It usually houses around 800-900. For the first time ever, the shelter is adopting animals at half price all month. However, even with that kind of a deal, people are surrendering about four times as many animals as they're adopting.
"I hate doing this because I don't know what's going to happen, but I don't have a choice in this matter right now," Mayhew Mitchell said. Mitchell lost his job and barely gets by on unemployment checks. "I can't afford a dog," he said.
Mitchell had to make a choice: feed his family or his dog. On Wednesday, he surrendered his pet. He's not the only one.
People surrender about 120 dogs or cats every weekend in Guilford County. But, only 20 or 30 animals get adopted on an average weekend.
Guilford County Animal Shelter Director Marsha Williams said, "We're just constantly thinking, every day, what can we do different to help get some of these animals adopted?"
Becky Hampton came to the shelter to adopt a dog on Wednesday.
"We've had two other dogs from animal shelters and they have been wonderful dogs. It breaks your heart when you go through the kennels and you see so many dogs in there," Hampton said.
Shelter staff say people are surrendering animals because of the economy, job cuts and pay cuts. It has been years since shelter staff have seen this many people give up their pets.
"It's devastating for us because we feel sorry for the families who really want to keep their animals and can't. But, it's also stressful for our staff because we have to keep them clean, we have to keep them healthy. We have to find space for them," Williams said.
The shelter even started a food bank for animals to help people keep their pets. Even with all these programs in place, there are just too many animals coming in and not enough getting adopted.
Plus, more and more people are dropping off pets with medical problems. Owners say they just can't afford the vet bills.