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      Animal shelter needs your vote in national competition

      Horry County's Animal Care Center is participating in a national competition for a $100,000 grant and they need your vote to help them make it to the final round.

      In all, 150 animal shelters are a part of the ASPCA Rachael Ray Challenge. It's part of an effort to "increase pet adoption, reunite lost pets with their families and save more animals' lives," according to the group's website.

      At the Horry County Animal Care Center off Highway 701, you can find many pets looking for a home.

      "We deal with about 12,000 animals a year and the numbers go up a few hundred more so it's really important that we start to get that under control so that we can focus more on the quality of care than the quantity," said Kelly Bonome, the center's Operations Director.

      Bonome entered the animal shelter in the challenge to help raise awareness of what they offer the community and to help curb the homeless pet population problem.

      If the center makes the top 50 in votes, they'll hold an adoption blitz in the fall for three months.

      "We're gonna make a really ambitious goal of adopting or returning to owner over 1,500 animals in that three month period of time. That's more than what we do in a year in adoptions," added Bonome. "The shelter with the most improved adoption and return to owner rates will win the grand prize."

      If they take home the ultimate prize, the money would go towards moving more animals out of cages and into loving homes and creating a more affordable spay and neuter program.

      "Having an altered animal is actually much healthier. It saves them from a lot of cancers, it saves them from behavior issues, and also it saves them from having that prey drive so we have a lot safer animals out there. We don't see many bite cases with animals that have been spayed or neutered," Bonome explained.

      She also said the stray animals affects everyone in the community, "There's animals that you see on the sides of the road on a routine basis. If we can control the homeless pet population and have our public be more responsible pet owners we could reduce a lot of that stuff that would become unnecessary in the future."

      You can vote from noon April 5 to midnight April 16 online or through their Facebook page once a day to help the center make it to the final round.