IRVINE — For those who have lost a beloved pet, they know the race to beat the state's minimum four-day holding period and find their pet before it's given away — or worse — put down.
In these situations, the Irvine Animal Care Center can be a life-saver.
The city of Irvine has an extended minimum hold time — seven days — that gives anxious families a little extra precious time to reclaim their lost pets.
However, the Care Center never puts down an animal simply because too much time has passed.
"That's one of the things that we're so proud of here," Animal Care Administrator Ron Edwards said. "If the animal is adoptable, we're going to keep it here until it finds its forever home."
Their longest tenant, a stately Maine Coon cat mix with a crumpled left ear, has been at the center for almost two-and-half years.
"I believe that we will still find Dearie a home," Edwards said.
The Animal Care Center, which is supported largely by donations and tens of thousands of volunteer hours, is in the running for a $100,000 grant through the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
The nationwide competition could award the grant to the shelter, which has the largest increase in adoptions from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31.
More than 700 agencies and shelters vied for a spot in the competition, but only 50 were give a spot, said Edwards.
To win the competition, Edwards estimated that the center would need to increase adoptions by 300. However, as of mid-October, the shelter has only increased adoptions by 79; the total adoptions for the three-month period are 612.
Although it's looking shaky for the center as the competition's end nears, Edwards said, "As far as I'm concerned, the additional adoptions already makes us winners."
"And as for those animals from our special programs," Edwards continued, "when you adopt an animal from a shelter you truly are saving a life."
Edwards refers to the center's "Third Chance for Pets" program, where animals facing a higher likelihood of being euthanized in other shelters are rescued.
Those animals and other animals taken in by the center go through an extensive adoption process.
Something like a match-making services for pets and their owners, program administrators evaluate both the animals and potential owners to help families find their perfect pet, Edwards said.
"It's really about trying to make the best match," Edwards said. "For example, if it's an active family that goes hiking and camping a lot, we want to make sure we find a dog that's going to be able to go with them."
The center has more than a 90% success rate in returning lost animals and securing successful adoptions, Edwards said.
If the center wins the grant money, Edwards said that they would be able to rescue more animals through the Third Chance program and find many more animals their "forever home."
"We're very proud of our shelter and the things that [animals] are offered here," Edwards said. "But as nice as it is, it's not the same as a real home."
Follow the competition, which ends Oct. 31, at: http://challenge.aspcapro.org/page/contestant-leaderboard