The economic downturn is putting an unexpected strain on Fort McMurray's only animal shelter.

The SPCA in the city accepted more than 50 surrendered animals last month, and executive director Tara Clarke said each came through their doors with a "heartbreaking" story.

"They're all directly connected to the downturn," said Clarke. "From people losing their homes, to losing their jobs, to having to take on additional work, meaning that they don't have time to provide care for their pets.

"It's very, very sad to see."

The shelter only accepts surrendered animals. All other stray or seized pets within the Wood Buffalo Region are managed by local bylaw services, after the SPCA lost its contract with the municipality in October 2014.

The surge in new animals remains a concern for the shelter, said Clarke, who worries the trend will continue into the new year.

As of six weeks ago, more than 30 requests to surrender pets were on a wait list from across the region, and the shelter was already running beyond capacity.

It has room to spare today, only because so many people decided to adopt in December.

"Despite the increase in surrenders, we've also seen an increase in adoptions, and that's really great to see and really a testament to this community," said Clarke.

Clarke said the shelter has introduced new programs to help pets and their owners stay together, even in financial hardship.

The shelter's Pet Food Bank program has expanded, ensuring more low-income families can feed their animals. The shelter has also established on-site veterinary services, and offers subsidized care to those who need it.

"We're working to meet the needs of all pet owners, despite economic backgrounds, or their circumstances. We're working to keep those animals in their homes," Clarke said.

A spokesperson for the Edmonton Humane Society said it has not seen an increase in the number of surrendered animals.