PHOENIX - Every day, animals are dropped off or surrendered at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, and some of the animals were abandoned during the overnight hours.
"Many of us come here before the business office opens, and we're just trained to automatically look at the front door to see has someone left an animal behind," said Jose Santiago.
Santiago said more often then not, employees are arriving to work finding dogs chained to a bench or a tree. Cats and kittens are also being left.
"I've seen kittens left in a box with a note. I've seen dogs left in kennels in the front of our facility," said Tina Aguayo.
Santiago said more abandoned pets are showing up at the west shelter. He isn't sure why there's been an increase, or why some people are choosing to do this. Whatever the reason, he said it's just too dangerous.
"Leaving them here overnight, they are at risk of other animals that are loose and stray getting to them and maybe attacking them," said Santiago. "The heat inside the plastic kennel, that's going to get even hotter for them. That could cause them to go into distress of some type."
People are typically dropping the animals after dark, when the shelter is closed and no one is around.
"I want to think that people are doing it because they feel like it's the best thing to do if they find a lost or stray animal, but in a lot of cases, there are people that are so desperate and they feel like they have to give up their pet and they don't want to be judged for giving up their pet," said Santiago.
In addition, some employees use a back entrance rather than going through the front, where the cats and dogs are typically being left, meaning they could potentially sit out there even longer unattended.
To properly surrender a pet, people must make an appointment to come in, fill out paperwork, and pay a $75 drop fee. People abandoning their pet may be trying to avoid this, but doing so taxes the shelter.
"Unfortunately, we don't know what kind of care we're going to have to provide for that animal that you're surrendering," said Santiago. "Some of those animals that you're dropping off here are sick [and] they're malnourished. We still have to house and feed that animal and it's $33 a day to house and feed every animal that we have here."
Santiago is hoping people in a jam will reach out for help to ensure their pet will be safe until it finds a new forever home.
"We don't want people to hear this message and say, 'I'm going to dump the animal in the desert' or something of that nature," said Santiago. "Please do what you can to bring them here. We will work with a lot of these folks. We provide them [with] other resources. There are resources out there that can potentially help you keep your animal rather than surrendering it. We want to help as much as possible, we just want to do so responsibly."
The shelter has recently installed security cameras on the outside of their buildings, hoping it will deter people from abandoning their pets.