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City of Manhattan News

Posted on: September 20, 2023

City of Manhattan contracts with Prairie Paws, Inc. to operate T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter

Logos for Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, City of Manhattan, and T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter

(MANHATTAN, Kan. – September 20, 2023) — The Manhattan City Commission on Tuesday, September 19 voted 4-0 in favor of an agreement presented by City staff to outsource the operation of the City’s animal shelter to Prairie Paws.

Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, Inc. (PPAS) is a private 501(c)3 no-kill animal shelter founded in 1946 in Franklin County that serves more than 3,000 pets annually across more than six counties.

While the organization is a long-standing and stable local charity, PPAS leadership has identified growth and scale as priorities for its future.

“Our organization is fortunate to have robust programming and stable financial support, but as our costs continue to rise, we have had to identify strategies to leverage our resources responsibly,” said Vanessa Cowie, executive director for Prairie Paws Animal Shelter. “Serving more animals and more citizens is the most effective way to achieve that.”

Discussions with City staff in January 2023 prompted a thorough process to identify an effective way to provide high-quality services to the citizens and animals of Manhattan without requiring additional tax dollars. It was learned that many of the challenges faced by municipalities in operating animal shelters are less disruptive to privately run animal shelters. Private animal shelters have greater access to funding and have a more flexible governance model that allows for efficiencies in personnel management and policymaking.

“Animal welfare agencies can operate without some of the restrictions of municipal government. They may have better connections with donors, with fundraisers, with grants that not-for-profits can pursue that cities can’t,” explained Assistant City Manager Wyatt Thompson.

The process that led up to Tuesday’s vote began with presentations to the City Commission, which resulted in the release of a request for proposals. City staff’s review of the PPAS proposal was positive and ultimately led to a successful recommendation to the City Commission on August 1 to allow negotiations between the two entities. The agreement that was presented to the City Commission on September 19 ensures the programs at the animal shelter will continue without disruption and without an increase to the budget.

Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, Inc. will be compensated with $350,000 annually to provide the scope of services required by the City, as well as $13,850 for the cost of transition. The agreement also includes leasing the current T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter facilities for $1 a year, set to begin before the end of the year. With the level of service to citizens and animals a priority, the agreement requires Prairie Paws Animal Shelter to report on detailed performance metrics.

While Franklin County residents likely will not see significant changes, citizens of Manhattan may notice some changes in branding and a stronger fundraising presence as the transition takes place. After the transition is complete, Manhattan pet owners may have access to additional programs at the shelter, including low-cost spay/neuter and trap/neuter/release for community cats.

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