AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Animal Center (AAC) will join other shelters around the nation Saturday in an annual effort — called Clear The Shelters — to get every animal inside its doors adopted. All adoptions will be free.

For Central Texas shelters, like the AAC, the event comes at a time where overpopulation has forced the shelter to close its doors to most new animals.

“We’ve had dogs that have actually been here for weeks, months and some of them even over a year,” said Marisa Ledesma, rescue coordinator with the AAC.

For the better part of a year, the Austin Animal Center has largely restricted intake, meaning if you find a pet you can’t drop it off at the city shelter in most cases. The exceptions being if a pet is severely ill or a danger to the public.

To make matters worse, the shelter recently announced it was seeing an uptick in distemper cases, furthering the need to limit animals coming into the shelter.

“It’s something that we see all the time, it’s just we’ve had an increased number of it,” Ledesma said.

That’s why this year’s Clear The Shelters event will be so important for shelters like AAC, which has been desperately asking fosters and adopters to help out.

The shelter is making changes to ensure the distemper outbreak doesn’t discourage people from coming and finding a pet including rolling out the hand sanitizer, clearly marking any distemper cases and educating people about vaccinations and treatment.

“No one should go home with a surprise. We have lots of paperwork we’re giving people, lots of stuff, so we’re hoping to help spread the word and educate our customers as well as our community about distemper,” Ledesma said.

It’s a capacity crisis the shelter has told us before, is one that’s not unique to Austin. The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter told KXAN Friday it’s at double capacity for dogs.

Central Texas shelters are hoping Saturday’s event helps ease some of the overpopulation issues that have become standard.

“This could absolutely help with that. If we got 100 dogs adopted tomorrow, that would be great and we could start to talk to our stakeholders and other community members about opening up our doors,” Ledesma said.

You can find more details about Clear The Shelters, including which Austin-area shelters are participating, here.