Sunday, November 23, 2014

Struggling Prairie Paws asks city for more funds

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/27/2014

A need to keep pace with operating expenses and to recoup the loss of a major financial contributor prompted Prairie Paws Animal Shelter to request a 3 percent increase in funding from the City of Ottawa for 2015.

“Your support of Prairie Paws has been crucial,” Melissa Reed, Prairie Paws director, told city commissioners Monday.

A need to keep pace with operating expenses and to recoup the loss of a major financial contributor prompted Prairie Paws Animal Shelter to request a 3 percent increase in funding from the City of Ottawa for 2015.

“Your support of Prairie Paws has been crucial,” Melissa Reed, Prairie Paws director, told city commissioners Monday.

The shelter has made no secret about its struggle to maintain operations since moving four years ago to its new facility, 3173 K-68, Reed said. The loss of a substantial donor is forcing the shelter to generate more revenue through fundraising, Reed said.

This year the shelter has implemented a direct mail campaign, streamlined its fundraising events to make them more effective and “tremendously improved” its customer service, Reed told commissioners in delivering the shelter’s request for a 3 percent funding increase that would boost the city’s allocation to the shelter to $50,511 for 2015.

Reed, who took over as director earlier this year, said the shelter has trimmed staff to reduce costs, worked on building relationships with other nonprofits and businesses and cut down on the number of animal euthanasias at the shelter.

She thanked the city for moving its dog licensing program from City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., to the shelter this year.

“The administration of the city’s tag program has been very successful, and we appreciate the city’s support in that,” Reed said. “It’s helped raise awareness of the shelter. We get a lot of people who say they didn’t even realize the shelter was out there.”

So far, the shelter has collected $8,085 in registration fees for 649 dogs, compared to $5,355 the city collected last year, Reed said.

Linda Reed, Ottawa mayor, who is not related to the Prairie Paws director, said she was leery at first about moving the dog licensing program to the shelter, but said it sounds like it has proven to be a success.

The shelter took in 308 dogs from Ottawa last year, Melissa Reed said. Prairie Paws houses between 120 to 150 animals on a daily basis and serves all of Franklin County, as well as other communities in the region, she said.

In response to a question about neighboring communities that pay nothing to the shelter, Reed said she plans to cultivate relationships with elected officials in nearby cities and counties that are not contributing financially to the shelter in an effort to generate funds from those entities to compensate for animals brought to the shelter from their communities.

The cities of Lane and Princeton and the counties of Osage and Linn have not been providing financial support to the shelter, according to a Prairie Paws report. The only other entity making a major contribution to the shelter is Franklin County, which also received a request for a 3 percent raise in funding that would take its contribution to $41,200. Other entities allocating funds to the shelter in the past are Anderson and Miami counties and the cities of Pomona, Richmond, Wellsville and Williamsburg.

Some of the other initiatives by the shelter include working with Communities in Schools of Ottawa to provide educational opportunities and partnering with COF to provide volunteering opportunities at the shelter. Prairie Paws also has been talking with Meals on Wheels officials about providing dog and cat food to their clients, Reed said.

“A lot of times [Meals on Wheels] clients are giving their food [to their pets] because they are their family and provide companionship,” Reed said.

The shelter’s next major fundraiser will be a dinner and auction in the fall, Reed said.

“We have made tremendous strides in the past year, and I’m very excited about the opportunities ahead,” she said.

The commission took the shelter’s funding request under advisement as it collects budget requests from all the entities receiving funds from the city. Commissioners will continue to craft the 2015 budget in the coming weeks.

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