Puppies wagged their tails and kittens purred Sunday at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region to kick off the most ambitious goal the shelter in Colorado Springs has ever taken on.
The shelter plans saving 3,954 dogs and cats by the end of August is fighting to earn $100,000 grant from the ASPCA's Rachel Ray Challenge.
Charlie Andrews, 9, giggled excitedly as he and his parents walked through the hallways at the Humane Society's shelter, 610 Abbot Lane, trying to decide which pup would make the newest addition to their family.
"I want a big dog that can run and play with me," Charlie said, pointing at a long-haired golden retriever mix. "I am ready to take care of my own pet, by myself."
The Humane Society was chosen along with 50 shelters across the country to participate in the challenge, one spokeswoman Katie Borremans knows is a tall order to meet. Running from Sunday through Aug. 31, the shelter will have to save 43 animals per day to reach their goal.
"It's intimidating but exciting, this is a really big deal to all of us," Borremans said. "We are competing against other shelters but also with ourselves. We've made great strides in animal welfare and we really felt like we were ready to take this leap and push ourselves."
By the ASPCA's guidelines, adoptions, stray cats that are sterilized and released, lost pets returned to owners, rescues and transfers all count as animals saved.
While there is no "winning number," any of the competitors must reach, the ASPCA will award the $100,000 grant to the shelter that shows the largest increase in lives saved, compared to the numbers they reported for June, July and August of 2013.
In the Pikes Peak Region, the Humane Society saved 2,630 animals over that period last year and wants to increase that by 1,200 animals, Borremans said.
"We looked at what we accomplished last year and decided to reach out for a fantastic goal. If we can hit this number, we'll be on track to make 10,000 adoptions this year," she said.
To promote the $100,000 challenge, the Humane Society will have deals Mondays through Fridays until the end of August, including $30 off every dog adoption on Mondays, extending their hours until 8 p.m. Wednesdays to accommodate late schedules, senior discounts on Thursdays up and free cat adoptions on Fridays.
While there's no guarantee the shelter will meet its goal and win the grant, Borremans said competing in the challenge will be its own reward.
"Obviously, we would love to win the grant, but even if we don't, it's a win-win anyway, because the effort everyone will put into will be worth it," Borremans said. "And no matter what happens, there will be so many animals that will find homes."