BANGOR, Maine — One month after accomplishing a notable first in its 65-year history, the Bangor Humane Society has a chance to make history again.
After running out of adoptable animals last month for the first time since opening in 1937, the shelter advanced through three qualifying rounds to become one of 50 nationwide competing for a $100,000 grand prize in the third annual ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.
“It’s a competition for agencies to increase their adoption rates by 300 pet adoptions over last year’s total. We adopted 851 last year for that period,” said Stacey Coventry, the humane society’s public relations manager.
If the 300-or-more goal is met, the humane society will get $5,000. Other prize levels include $25,000 for the shelter that best engages, involves and promotes itself in its area, and $20,000 for winning its region.
Bangor has its work cut out for it as its region — the Northeast — also includes populous states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and even Ohio. The nearest remaining competing shelter is in Pennsylvania.
Still, Coventry says humane society staffers are confident.
“We finished fourth in our region [after the qualifying rounds]. Ohio shelters finished first and third, and second went to Baltimore, Maryland,” Coventry said. “We were surprised we beat out New Jersey, but that shows we can compete. Maine can compete.”
Coventry said last year’s only Maine entrant — Lewiston’s Greater Androscoggin Humane Society — won its region, earning a total of $25,000.
Bangor had to survive three cut-down rounds to get this far. After its formal application was accepted among the first 150, it was evaluated during an hourlong phone interview with an ASPCA representative who asked about what services the society provided, its adoption numbers, present and future goals, and figures determining the scale and effectiveness of its operation.
Then came a 10-day period (April 5-15) when people could vote no more than once a day for their favorite shelter.
“The first 25 shelters were chosen via region,” said Coventry. “We were fourth in the top 25, and then the other 25 were the best of the rest.”
For now, Bangor Humane Society staff members are going through training and orientation with ASPCA reps. They also are lining up contacts in case they need to augment the number of dogs and cats available for adoption.
“We get about four to five calls a day from shelters asking if we can help them now that they’ve seen our success with the [ASPCA Mega] Match-A-Thon,” said Coventry. “Now we don’t have to chase. They come to us.”