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Pet shelter competes in Rachael Ray challenge

The Southampton Animal Shelter took in 21 dogs,

The Southampton Animal Shelter took in 21 dogs, 17 of them puppies, on Sunday after they were rescued by the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia. (Credit: Southampton Animal Shelter)

The Southampton animal shelter is taking on 149 other shelters from around the country for a chance at winning up to $100,000.

The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation is one of the smallest in the third annual ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, which encourages shelters to come up with innovative ways to save more pets’ lives and increase the involvement of their communities. The animal-loving celebrity is a spokeswoman for the challenge.

The Southampton shelter is in the qualifying round for the competition, but in order to actually compete will need to be voted into the top 50 by its supporters.

Natascha Grief, assistant director of development for the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, said people can visit the ASPCA challenge website and vote once a day from now through April 16.

“We’re hoping that our community is going to be voting for us every day so we can have a chance,” she said.

The 50 shelters will compete from August to October for various prizes, including the $100,000 grand prize for the shelter that shows the largest increase in number of animals adopted over the same period last year; $25,000 for the runner up; $25,000 for the shelter that shows the most community engagement; and a $5,000 “Fast Start Grant” for the shelter that has the largest percentage increase in the number of animals adopted during the first month of the competition.

Grief said the Southampton animal shelter takes in about 1,000 animals a year and has an average adoption rate of 94 percent. With those numbers, Grief said she doesn’t expect to win the grand prize - up against shelters around the country that take in many more animals. But she has her sights set on the community engagement award and the fast start grant.

Grief said because the shelter is a nonprofit, it relies on grants and donations to operate.

“Our life saving rates are already phenomenal,” she said. “We’re very, very lucky, so primarily, this would be used to support the programs we already have and expand them.”

Bert Troughton, vice president of community outreach for the ASPCA, said in years past, the benefits of the challenge have extended beyond just saving animals. Individual shelters reaped benefits as well, including improved teamwork, more streamlined daily operations and an increase in community support.

“We’ve had a great response,” she said. “It’s been a win-win for everyone.”

To vote for the shelter, go to www.votetosavelives.org.

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