MANHATTAN (KSNT) – The ownership of Manhattan’s T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter could be in new hands within months. The City of Manhattan has been discussing alternate funding for the shelter since January in order to expand its operations.

After gaining approval from city commissioners at their Aug. 1 meeting, the city is now in contract negotiations with a shelter from Ottawa about taking over T. Russell Reitz. Ottawa’s shelter, known as Prairie Paws, submitted a proposal for taking ownership of Manhattan’s shelter following the city’s request for proposal.

Manhattan Assistant City Manager Wyatt Thompson told 27 News that having a partnership with a private, external organization such as Prairie Paws allows T. Russell Reitz to capitalize on resources the city itself doesn’t have access to.

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

Thompson said the shelter plays an important role in serving the community. He added that finding a partner like Prairie Paws will help enhance that service and improve the shelter’s ability to care for animals overall. Shelter employees, who have been working alongside the city to make this transition happen, could not agree more.

“It’s going to give us the availability to be able to do things such as low-cost spay and neuter clinics, those might be a possibility, trap/neuter/release,” Kaitlyn Gebhardt, the shelter’s interim intake coordinator said. ” It gets us out from under the city bubble, which sometimes has so many limitations being a government organization that we’re not going to be bound by anymore.” 

The city is continuing to work to finalize its 2024 budget. Even though that budget currently includes the shelter, city officials are looking to finalize external sources of funding for the shelter in the coming months.

Thompson said once the city and Prairie Paws iron out all the details and have a contract in place, the contract will return to city commission for a final vote. He expects that process to happen sometime in September.