DENVER (KDVR) — Many major animal shelters across the Denver metro are critically overcrowded, due to an increase in the number of owner surrenders and strays taken in.

This has led the Metro Denver Animal Welfare Alliance (MDAWA) to ask people who are able, to adopt from a shelter. The MDAWA is comprised of 25 public and private shelters, rescue groups and animal welfare services across the Denver metro.

Shelters are seeing more owner surrenders

The Denver Animal Shelter saw a 120% increase in the number of owners surrendering their pets between May 2022 and May 2023, and it isn’t alone.

According to the MDAWA, Aurora’s animal shelter saw a 35% increase in owner surrenders between 2021 and 2022, and the Foothills Animal Shelter has seen a 33% increase in owner surrenders so far this year.

The MDAWA said the rising number of owner surrenders is mainly due to economic barriers like housing instability. Issues like rising housing costs, breed or weight restrictions and rising pet fees can force people to relinquish their animals.

A new law was passed this year that actually caps the amount Colorado landlords can take for a pet deposit to $300 and the monthly pet fee to $35 or 1.5% of the rent price.

However, this law doesn’t go into effect until January 2024.

More stray impounds

In addition to more owners relinquishing their animals than before, more strays are being taken in. At Denver Animal Shelter, the number of strays increased by 29% between 2022 and 2023. Other shelters also saw increases as well.

This issue isn’t specific to the metro area either. According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the number of stray dogs across the state increased by nearly 32% between 2021 and 2022.

Dogs are waiting longer to be adopted

Dogs aren’t just being sent to the shelter in higher numbers — it’s taking longer for them to be adopted out than before.

In 2019, the Dumb Friends League gave a combined 61,000 days of shelter care for dogs. That has increased by 50% in the last year, with more than 92,000 days of care needed.

“Dogs are waiting for their new families longer which is difficult on the dog and is straining the shelter and those caring for homeless animals,” Director of the Riverdale Animal Shelter Stephanie Wilde said.

That shelter saw a length of stay increase of 62% in 2022.