(WJHL) — Animal shelters in the Tri-Cities are packed with more animals than they can handle. Most are operating with double their normal limit of animals in their facility.

Shelter leaders told News Channel 11 that there are a few factors contributing to the overcrowding.

“Honestly, it’s been coming for years,” said Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Director Shannon Posada. “The local veterinarians around were closed for COVID. They got behind, they’re still behind. It’s taking a long time to get spay and neuter appointments.”

Another factor is the inflated prices pet owners face.

“A lot of people are actually having to surrender their animals because they can’t afford food for themselves, let alone their animals,” said Hawkins County Humane Society Director Sandy Behnke.

The costs especially are an issue in Hawkins County. Several people have lost their jobs or are having issues finding one, Behnke said. They then have to choose between feeding their family or their animal.

Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter has about 190 cats in their facility, which is only designed to hold 100. (Photo: WJHL)

“Honestly, it’s really heartbreaking to see someone surrender an animal that’s been in their family a long time” said Behnke.

The solution to this problem will require multiple approaches.

“I think it’s a lot of education that we need to give back to our community,” said Posada. “And I think that pet owners really need to be more responsible.”

11 dogs rescued in Hawkins County after abandoned. (Photo: Sandy Behnke)

The director of the Washington County Johnson City Animal Shelter, Tammy Davis, agrees with Posada, especially when thinking about adopting.

“We also want people, everyone, to remember that this is a lifelong commitment,” Davis said. “So, if you are not ready to adopt an animal, please don’t take an animal on if you’re not capable of taking care of them for the rest of their life.”

The Washington County Animal Shelter has lowered its adoption prices to encourage people to adopt. Cat and kitten adoption fees are $15, and if you adopt two, it’s $22. The adoption fee for dogs is $35.

The Hawkins County Humane Society is encouraging residents to take part in the foster-to-adopt process.

The Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter continues to ask people to adopt from a shelter before buying from a breeder and asks for more volunteers to help with caring for the animals.