Kent County Animal Shelter gets out the vote, qualifies for ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge

The Kent County Animal Shelter cleared the first hurdle in the ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, finishing 27th in the event’s qualifying heat. KCAS needed to garner enough online votes to make the top 50 and have a shot at the contest’s several monetary rewards, including the $100,000 grand prize.

Pistol Pete, a 4-year-old Jack Russell terrier, is available for adoption at the Kent County Animal Shelter. Pistol Pete, who weighs almost 14 pounds, is a typical Jack Russell, full of energy and intelligence. Pete is a very active dog and will benefit from having an active owner that is willing to crate train and take him to training classes after the adoption. He'll do best in a home without cats. (KCAS photo)

The Grand Rapids-based shelter finished third in its North Central Division with 10,350 votes in the qualifying portion, which ran from April 5-16. The Humane Society of Central Washington, based in Yakima, Wash., was the overall leader with 33,989 online votes.

“I’ll take 27th out of 104 shelters any day,” said Carly Luttmann, program supervisor for KCAS. “It’s awesome. We’re thrilled.”

Now, the real work begins. To earn prize money in the Challenge, shelters must “save” 300 more dogs, puppies, cats and kittens from Aug. 1  to Oct. 31, than it did the previous year. A save, or live exit, according to contest rules, is defined as animals who leave a shelter through adoption (including on-site, mobile, satellite and event adoptions), alternative placements (transfers to other facilities or placements with programs such as law enforcement) and return-to-owner (RTO) from the shelter, including RTO by animal control officers in the field.

Only saved animals that represent an increase over the previous year for that month will count toward the Challenge goal. For KCAS to meet the Challenge goal, it will need to total at least 823 saved animals during the three-month contest, an increase of 300 over those same months last year.

“We’re into the Challenge and now we have to creatively brainstorm to find ways to save an additional 300 animals,” Luttmann said. “That’s a significant increase from 2011, so we have to get busy being creative. If anything, though, the qualifying votes have proven we can get the word out and get the community fired up. That’s great for us. We now have to find other ways to spread the word around.”

Those looking to adopt a pet should keep in mind that  August is quite a ways off, and there are plenty of pets in the shelter who need homes now.

Luttmann said it’s likely KCAS will offer adoption specials during the three-month period and possibly discounts on adoptions if her agency can find funding to support such an effort. Last fall, Vicky’s Pet Connection sponsored half the cost of feline adoptions, allowing KCAS to offer “$5 Feline Fridays,” for cat adoptions.

“We’ll do some brainstorming, and it will be a collaboration between the animal shelter staff, the health department administration and other organizations like Vicky’s,” Luttmann said. “We’re fired up to get their ideas. We figure the more creative energy we have and the more we think outside the box, the chances are we’ll come up with some awesome ideas.”

A simple way for the community to help in the effort, aside from adopting a dog or cat from KCAS during the contest period, is to help the shelter increase its return-to-owner count. Having your pet microchipped (KCAS offers $20 walk-in microchipping) so it can be returned if it gets lost would go a long way toward that goal. Likewise, making sure your dog is licensed, as required by law, can make a big difference.

“We need to get the word out about our microchipping program… that would help a lot with reclaims,” Luttmann said. “And with only 18 percent of our target audience complying as far as dog licenses, we have huge room for improvement there. If a dog is licensed, our animal control officers can get it right back to the owner without having to bring it into the shelter.

“We would much rather make contact with the owner than impound a dog at the shelter.”