Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Lack of funds causes shelter to reduce hours

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 9/20/2013

A financially strapped Ottawa animal shelter is scaling back its hours of operation to four days a week in a cost-savings move, the shelter’s operations manager said Thursday.

Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, 3173 K-68, Ottawa, will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, Jaron Asher, the shelter’s operations manager and deputy director, said. The shelter used to be open every day but Wednesdays.

A financially strapped Ottawa animal shelter is scaling back its hours of operation to four days a week in a cost-savings move, the shelter’s operations manager said Thursday.

Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, 3173 K-68, Ottawa, will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, Jaron Asher, the shelter’s operations manager and deputy director, said. The shelter used to be open every day but Wednesdays.

The new hours are set to go into effect Sept. 29.

The shelter is operating at a loss of about $13,000 a month, Asher said.

“This is strictly for financial reasons,” Asher said. “It takes money to keep the doors open, and right now we do not have the funding to remain open six days a week.”

Prairie Paws receives a portion of its funding from area city and county governments whose residents use the facility, as well as fundraisers and private donations.

The shelter was projecting expenses of $537,408.80 in 2014, up from actual expenditures of $478,322.47 in 2012, according to a budget proposal Prairie Paws representatives presented to the Ottawa City Commission in June.

Prairie Paws’ budget numbers showed the shelter was operating at a loss of -$63,087.12 through April for the current budget year.

Ottawa’s share of the annual cost of dogs and cats taken from the community to Prairie Paws would have been $63,378 in 2012, shelter officials told the city commission.

Of the 2,200 animals served by the shelter in 2012, 503 dogs and cats — nearly 25 percent of the shelter’s population — came from Ottawa, Vondie O’Conner, vice president of the Prairie Paws executive board, told city commissioners during budget talks in June.

The City of Ottawa allocated $45,540 to Prairie Paws in 2012.

After talking with city officials, O’Conner said he realized the city commission would not be allocating $63,378 the shelter was original seeking from the city.

“We hope to get an additional 10 percent and get it to $50,000,” O’Conner said.

Asher, the former animal control director for Kansas City, Mo., has taken steps to change the adoption fees for dogs and cats, since going to work for the shelter earlier this year, O’Conner told city commissioners.

“We are trying to be more fiscally responsible, and see what things we can buy in bulk if we have storage for them,” Asher said. “We’ve changed our adoption fees. They used to be a straight fee of $150 for dogs and $85 for cats. National trends indicate it’s not good policy to have a set fee anymore. Some animals are more adoptable than others. ... Our fees are varied now and it has raised our adoptions considerably already for dogs and cats.”

Of the more than 2,000 animals taken in by the shelter last year, 620 dogs and 320 cats were adopted, Asher said.

The city commission opted to allocate $49,040 to Prairie Paws in its 2014 budget.

Prairie Paws asked Franklin County for $52,794 in 2014 because of the increasing number of animals the shelter takes in each year, shelter officials said.

The county allocated $40,000 to Prairie Paws for 2014, a 10-percent increase over its 2013 allocation, Lisa Johnson, Franklin County administrator, said.

Prairie Paws has been operating at its new facility for three years, and the money it receives from Franklin County, Ottawa, Williamsburg and Pomona is not enough to cover all its costs, Asher said.

“We serve a five-county area so we do get some money for that and we also get money from fundraisers and we also get money from donations,” Asher said in an earlier interview. “Unfortunately none of that covers operational costs, and the new facility means more work and more money and we always need more. Even the money from city and county doesn’t begin to cover our full costs of what we do here.”

After the new days of operation are instituted at the end of this month, Prairie Paws officials plan to re-evaluate the shelter’s financial situation in 90 days, Asher said.

“We do not want to cut back more hours or have to shut down one of our wings [in the future],” Asher said. “We want to stay open for the animals and the community.”

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