Local shelter hopes for $100K win

Animal shelter competes in ASCPA's $100K Challenge


Junior Jarod Zimmerman plays with a puppy Friday at the Bloomington Animal Shelter. The shelter is competing in the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge. Steph Aaronson Buy Photos

The cats are yet to be named, Elbekhty said, but the names Blake and Karl from the TV show “Workaholics” are strong contenders.  

“We’ve been coming in all week trying to find animals that fit us,” Elbekhty said.

The couple returned to the City of Bloomington Animal Shelter to participate in its daily special, “Free Feline Fridays,” as part of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ $100K Challenge.

Since Aug. 1, the shelter has been competing against 49 shelters across the nation to increase adoptions and improve community involvement. The ASPCA has partnered with Rachael Ray for the third year as hosts for the challenge, which runs through Oct. 31.

The shelter that achieves the largest increase in adoptions during the three-month period when compared to its previous year’s total will be awarded the grand prize of $100,000.

Several other awards are offered, including an automatic $500 to all shelters that improve their adoptions by a minimum of 300.

“You’re competing against yourself in addition to competing against the other shelters,” said Bloomington Animal Shelter Director Laurie Ringquist.

During the same three months in 2011, the Bloomington shelter made 757 adoptions. The shelter aims to double this amount for a total of 1,500 adoptions. It must achieve 1,057 adoptions by Oct. 31 to win the minimum award.

The shelter had 143 more adoptions during the month of August than during the same month last year. Ringquist said that with students going back to school, the number of adoptions in September has only increased by 20.

Ringquist said she is nervous about meeting the minimum.

“We’re working so hard,” she said. “It’d be disappointing not to make that. But over the long run, if we improve our relationships in the community and increase our adoptions, that’s a win.”

One of the highest awards available in the challenge is the ASPCA Community Engagement Award, which comes with a $25,000 grant.

“I think that’s the one we have the best chance at winning,” Ringquist said.

An online voting competition will take place between Oct. 17 and Oct. 31. The three shelters with the highest number of votes will be judged by a panel which reviews how well the shelter used events, media coverage and other forms of outreach to involve the community.

In the initial online voting round to apply for the competition last March, the shelter won second place.

“We know our supporters know how to vote,” Ringquist said.

She said their shelter is the only one in Indiana competing in the challenge.

“There’s a statewide impact to what we’re doing,” she said. “We’ve been transferring animals in from other shelters. It really helps them, too.”

The shelter has been a host for several publicity events around Bloomington to encourage residents to adopt a pet. The shelter will bringing about 20 dogs to an “Adopt-a-Thon” from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 30 at Bryan Park.

If the shelter were to win a monetary prizes, Ringquist said she hopes to use the money for several renovations. 

“The concrete is crumbling and the ventilation system is from the 1960s,” she explained.

Rinquist would like to renovate the stray cat area and create a location to isolate sick animals, which they do not currently have.

Shirley Davies, an adoption counselor at the animal shelter, said the shelter often allows IU students to make adoptions if the student confirms that their home and lifestyle allows them to make the commitment.

“If they will have this cat for the next 20 years, will they really want to take on this responsibility?” Davies said.

Students like Elbekhty fit Davies’ criteria. She is currently living in her family home in Bloomington and has previously adopted from the shelter.

“I think the challenge is great, especially for college kids who can’t justify spending $75 for a cat,” Elbekhty said.

Elbekhty said she prefers adopting cats from shelters rather than purchasing them from advertisements on websites such as Craigslist. In shelters, she said, cats interact with volunteers and different visitors every day.

“They’re more social and have more of a personality,” she said.

The animals in the shelter have also received all necessary veterinarian care, Ringquist said. Purchasing a pet from an advertisement usually requires additional medical examinations, costing two to three times more than shelter fees, she said.

“For the people that place ads in the paper, their motivation is to sell an animal,” Ringquist said. “Our motivation is to place an animal in a lifelong home.”


Junior Kawtar Elbekhty holds a kitten she is about to adopt Friday at the Bloomington Animal Shelter. The shelter is working towards winning the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge. Steph Aaronson Buy Photos

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