AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – The Aiken County Animal Shelter has been giving homes to animals for a long time.

But the nationwide problem of overcrowding has hit them hard. Now they are calling on the community for help, to literally “clear the shelter”.

The shelter has been over capacity for most of this year. They took 500 dogs and cats in June, but after transporting several of them they still have 130 animals–which is still well over capacity.

But now they are doing something about it, and they hope an event this weekend will make more room.

“Our Clear the Shelters Event–that’s just going to save lives,” said FOTAS Programs Coordinator Kathy Cagle. “We are truly full, and we just can’t keep taking in this number of animals if people don’t come adopt. Our adoptions have been standstill–they’ve been the slowest we’ve had in years.”

According to Cagle, this is happening for a couple of reasons.

The first is because the shelter is required to take every stray animal in Aiken County–and number of intakes in the summer are high every year.

Cagle also says this is due to those around the county “dumping animals everywhere”.

“There’s just a different feeling in the responsibility of pet ownership right now. So, the numbers are staggering. We have every kennel full, we have multiples in some of the kennels, and it’s just really sad,” said Cagle.

On top of Aiken County continuing to grow, there is currently a nationwide shortage of veterinarians, and many have found it hard to get their animals fixed.

Another reason Cagle lists is things going back to normal, now that society is on the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s really a lack of responsibility,” said Cagle. “People are getting rid of their pets because they’re travelling, or they’re moving, or they’re doing things. We just really want people to understand when you get an animal that that’s part of your family.”

But this weekend, they are doing something about it.

On top of the “Clear the Shelter” event, they opened a brand-new PAWS building on the property–something that Cagle says is a key addition.

“This building is huge. We now have adoption rooms that are quiet, we have a meet and greet room so people can bring their dogs in to meet our dogs. And it’s a safe, quiet atmosphere where people can really get to know the animal with our adoption staff. So we’re hoping for more adoptions from that.”

The shelter had a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon at 3 pm, officially opening the building for use.

The “Clear the Shelter” Event is a nationwide, annual event, where those in communities across the country can adopt a pet at no cost to them.

But the most important thing for those at the animal shelter is for the community to get involved.

This way the animals can get new homes, so they don’t have to be turned away.

“Our adoptions have been standstill–they’ve been the slowest we’ve had in years. So tomorrow, we are just all praying, we have all hands on deck that people will come out and come get a free dog or cat,” said Cagle.

The event will be at the Aiken County Animal Shelter on Saturday morning, from 9 AM – 12 PM.

For more information, you can visit their website here.