SAN ANTONIO -

San Antonio's Animal Care Services will be competing with 49 other animal shelters nationwide for prizes totaling more than half a million dollars.

The goal: save more animals.

A contest sponsored by the ASPCA and cooking show host Rachel Ray is challenging shelters to get more pets adopted.

The grand-prize winner with the biggest percentage increase gets $100,000.

Jeanne Saadi, of Animal Care Services, said ACS just missed the cut to get in the contest last year.

"Last year the top 50 shelters qualified,” Saadi said. “Last year we were No. 51."

This year, ACS is in and the agency is up for the challenge.

"We can do it.” Saadi said. “We absolutely can do it, but we can't do it without San Antonio's help."

ACS already participates in a number of efforts to get animals adopted. There are special events on a monthly basis, a partnership with other shelters to cooperate in adopting animals and even their website and Facebook page.

The shelter will not reveal what extra efforts will be put into winning the grand prize.

The Humane Society is already at ACS on a regular basis helping out and so is San Antonio Pets Alive.

And people like Vanessa Del Rio are choosing to adopt here.

"I love dogs,” Del Rio said. “I mean I'm a dog person so if I could help save one off the streets or save one from getting out there I would."

Jessica Hannah was at the shelter checking out a new dog to foster in her home.

"Shelters obviously are way overcrowded, there's a ton of dogs, perfectly good, healthy dogs that get put down,” Hannah said.

Hannah has fostered about 50 dogs over two years and believes in saving shelter animals.

Saadi said efforts here are already showing progress.

"We've gone from a 32 percent live release rate last year to an almost 67 percent live release rate this year," Saadi said.

The contest is based on the biggest percentage increase in adoptions this August, September and October compared to the same period last year.

The 50 shelters competing in the 2012 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge are:

In the West Division:
• Kern County Animal Control in Bakersfield, Calif.
• Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode in Diamond Springs, Calif.
• Escondido Humane Society in Escondido, Calif.
• Marin Humane Society in Novato, Calif.
• Animal Friends Rescue Project in Pacific Grove, Calif.
• San Bernardino County Animal Care & Control in San Bernardino, Calif.
• Animal Friends of the Valleys in Wildomar, Calif.
• Canyon County Animal Shelter in Caldwell, Idaho
• Nevada Humane Society, Reno, Nev.
• Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, Ore.
• Humane Society of Central Washington in Yakima, Wash.

In the Northeast Division:
• Bangor Humane Society in Bangor, Maine
• Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) in Baltimore, Md.
• Talbot Humane in Easton, Md.
• Montgomery County Humane Society in Rockville, Md.
• Eleventh Hour Rescue in Randolph, N.J.
• Ashtabula County Animal Protective League in Ashtabula, Ohio
• Humane Society of Greater Dayton in Dayton, Ohio
• SICSA in Kettering, Ohio
• Toledo Area Humane Society in Maumee, Ohio
• Medina County SPCA in Medina, Ohio
• Humane League of Lancaster County in Lancaster, Pa.
• The Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia, Pa.
• Animal Friends, Inc. in Pittsburgh, Pa.
• Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
• Last Chance Ranch, Inc. in Quakertown, Pa.

In the Southeast Division:
• Central Brevard Humane Society in Cocoa, Fla.
• Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
• Flagler Humane Society in Palm Coast, Fla.
• Seminole County Animal Services in Sanford, Fla.
• Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington, Fla.
• The Humane Society of Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C.
• Oconee County Humane Society, Inc. in Seneca, S.C.
• Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville, Tenn.
• Portsmouth Humane Society in Portsmouth, Va.

In the South Central Division:
• Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA in Phoenix, Ariz.
• HALO Animal Rescue in Phoenix, Ariz.
• Humane Society of Southern Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.
• Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society in Santa Fe, N.M.
• Tulsa Animal Welfare in Tulsa, Okla.
• Beaumont Animal Services in Beaumont, Texas
• Denton Animal Shelter Foundation in Denton, Texas
• BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions in Houston, Texas
• City of San Antonio Animal Care Services in San Antonio, Texas

In the North Central Division:
• Winnebago County Animal Services in Rockford, Ill.
• City of Bloomington Animal Care and Control in Bloomington, Ind.
• Heartland SPCA in Merriam, Kan.
• Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter in Dearborn, Mich.
• Kent County Animal Shelter in Grand Rapids, Mich.
• Bay Area Humane Society in Green Bay, Wis.