Riverside County hopeful for top spot in competition to save pets' lives

RIVERSIDE - Riverside County will soon find out whether it won a summer-long competition for a $100,000 grant to save pets' lives.

On Sept. 30, representatives from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are slated to visit the Department of Animal Services' Western Riverside County Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley to announce whether the county came in first or second in the ASPCA's 2013 Rachael Ray Challenge.

"We know we did very well during the battle months, with more than 5,000 pet adoptions and transfers to rescue group partners,'' said animal services spokesman John Welsh.

The challenge began on June 1 and ended Aug. 31. Scoring was based on the highest number of  "lives saved'' at shelters this summer compared to last.

Fifty shelters throughout the country participated in the challenge. The Department of Animal Services was said to be in the lead during the final stretch. Throughout August, the agency dropped spay/neuter and adoption fees -- charging only for dog licenses -- to encourage adoptions. "A Las Vegas-based organization was right on our tails,'' Welsh said. "But we think our final-week push ... helped us stay atop the rankings. We won't know for sure until the ASPCA makes the announcement. It will be a dramatic morning. If we end up in second place, you'll see a lot of sad faces. But we're very hopeful. No sad faces!''

The $100,000 check awarded to the contest winner must be used for shelter programs that benefit impounded dogs and cats.

Department of Animal Services Director Rob Miller and county CEO Jay Orr are slated to be on hand for the ceremony.

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