"STOP!" the sign in the Arizona Humane Society’s lobby stated. "The pets you are turning in might be put to death because we are out of space."
The sign sent some people back home with their animals, said Tremaine Jasper, a society spokesman.
"From what I heard, a couple of couples had fights in the lobby after seeing the sign," he said. Emotions ran high when one partner wanted to take the pet back home and the other still wished to surrender it to an uncertain fate.
Emotions also ran high for society staff and volunteers who feared the organization might have to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals. The space crunch a week ago was the worst the society has seen in more than three years.
In seven days, May 12-18, the society took in 1,476 animals, an average of 210 animals per day. Normal intake is about 90 pets per day.
"It’s not common to be in a situation where we have to threaten to euthanize pets," Jasper said.
Jasper said a coincidence of factors pushed the society’s pet population over the edge. Easter pets that outgrew baskets, upcoming summer vacations and behavioral issues led many to leave animals with the humane society in early May.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control spokeswoman Julie Bank said the county also faces overcrowding this time of year.
Whole litters come in after strays give birth in the spring, she said.
The county is forced to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals to make room.
The humane society’s intake numbers have declined since earlier this month. Monday’s intake was 74 pets, said spokeswoman Kim Noetzel.
A record number of adoptions last Saturday — 173, twice that of a usual Saturday — kept healthy, adoptable animals from being euthanized.
Jasper said the organization always asks that people consider finding a permanent home for an unwanted pet with family or friends or enrolling a misbehaving animal in the society’s low-cost obedience classes before resorting to surrender.
And although the sign in the lobby is gone now, Jasper said its message shouldn’t be forgotten.
"We still have a lot more that need to find homes," he said.
How to adopt animals
Fees for dogs older than 6 months, all kittens and cats and all little critters (rabbits and rodents) are half off at the Arizona Humane Society through Sunday. Normal fees range from $5 to $15 for little critters, $20 for rabbits, $35 to $75 for cats and kittens and $35 to $90 for dogs and puppies. Depending on the animal, fees include vaccinations, medical exams and free or discounted pet supplies.
WHERE: Nina Mason Pulliam Campus for Compassion, 1521 W. Dobbins Road, Phoenix, (602) 395-3874; the Sunnyslope facility, 9226 N. 13th Ave., Phoenix, (602) 216-6440
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays and all major holidays. Visit www.azhumane.org for directions or information.
For information on animals available from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, visit