Commission Holds Two Meetings On The Animal Shelter: One For You, One For Them


By Jon A. Brake

The Manhattan City Commission held two meetings Tuesday afternoon, both at the same time. One meeting was held for the public and one was held for the Commission and staff.

At one meeting the public was told that the staff had cut spending and things were going very well at the Animal Shelter. At the other meeting the staff and Commissioners knew that the reason they were there was that the Shelter was over built, and over budget.

At one meeting the public was told how euthanasia (killing of animals to prevent or end suffering) had declined by 10%. At the other meeting, Commissioners (but not to the public) were given photos showing 23 cats and 6 dogs that had been killed. Records show that of 1,933 animals admitted to the Animal Shelter in 2000, 909 were adopted, 417 were reclaimed and 607 were euthanized.

The Commissioners were not given straight answers. Several times Commissioners asked, "how long are the animals being kept." Several times the answer was "The City ordinance requires us to keep the animals five days." The real answer is "The average stay has gone up from two weeks to two month." (Manhattan Free Press July 26, 2001)

The Commissioners were given records showing a history of the revenues and expenses for the Shelter for the past seven years. The table shows Total Expenses going from $151,967 in 1994 to $243,316 in 2000. The 2002 Budget is $232,668 but that does not show the $60,000 a year the City must pay for the new building.

(Editors Note: The Manhattan Free Press requested the photos given to the Commission. The Staff produced copies from a coping machine but could not or would not provide originals. It is the view of the Editor that if dogs and cats are a problem for the City and the Commission the public should know it. If pictures are given to the Commission to show the extent of the problem, the public should know it. We were asked by Staff to be "sensitive" about the photos.")

The Manhattan City Commission received this Animal Shelter Update from Terry DeWeese, CPRP, Director of Parks and Recreation and Bernie Hayen, Director of Finance. Here is the memo:


Consider these statistics (taken from a book written by B.J. Ellis):

* The average length a person has a dog is five years.

* The average length a person has a cat is four years.

* The average age of a dog turned into an animal shelter is one year or younger.

We live in a throw away society. Americans tend to have a "love/hate" relationship with their pets.

One moment Fluffy is a cherished family member. The next moment, he or she is just an inconvenience to be dumped - usually with her most recent litter of puppies or kittens.

The soon-to-be-former pet owner tells shelter staff to find good homes for them and don’t want to know if the animal(s) have to be put to sleep.

Millions of loving pets must be destroyed each year because people neither want them nor love them enough to take proper care of them.

Pet owners can be extremely apathetic, irresponsible, and downright abusive. They can neglect to spay or neuter their pets. Or they want their children to experience the "miracle of birth". Some abandon the poor animals or let their dogs wander off. Others believe that feeding a stray cat at their back door is the limit of their responsibility to the feline.

Examples of other factors that contribute to the dog and cat overpopulation crisis:

* Backyard breeders

* Puppy mills by hobby breeders and professional breeders

* The billion dollar industry of pet food companies that encourages over breeding

* Veterinarians who oppose low cost spay/neuter programs

* Not educating the public on euthanizing animals

* The list goes on

The above-mentioned facts are issues that the T. Russell Reitz Regional Animal Shelter (Animal Shelter) staff deal with on a daily basis to assist the community in managing the overpopulation of dogs and cats. Only through providing the services at the Animal Shelter and continuing the education of the public will City Administration, with the current level of staff, be able to manage the number of animals being brought to the Shelter for adoption or to be put to sleep.

Brief History

As part of the informational process, City Administration thought it might be helpful to provide a brief history of the Animal Shelter for the new commissioners. Originally, the Animal Shelter, within the Parks and Recreation Department, was located at Sunset Zoo and housed 10 dog kennels and shared space in the current Zoo Administrative Offices. In order for Sunset Zoo to become accredited, the Animal Shelter needed to be moved outside of the Zoo.

In 1988, as part of the "Quality of Life" Bond Issue, a new Animal Shelter was built at its current location on Levee Drive. The new shelter provided kennels for 20 dogs and cages for 24 cats. The "Quality of Life" Bond Issue, which was passed in 1986, and a donation on behalf of T. Russell Reitz provided a major portion of the funding for the new Animal Shelter. In 1989, the Animal Shelter became a function of the Riley County-Manhattan Health Department.

The shelter opened and functioned as a short-term kill shelter to house nuisance, strayed, unwanted animals. Animal resource facilities picked up the animals for euthanasia weekly. As a kill shelter, it was functional, but it was not functional as a shelter that promoted adoptions or maintained animals in a good state of health. Due to the lack of space to house the number of animals entering the shelter daily, lack of proper ventilation and animal confinement, animals quickly came in contact with disease. It was a nightmare, with daily calls from angry owners and veterinarians complaining that animals reclaimed by their owners or adopted from the shelter were sick or dying.

Within the first year of operation, it became apparent the shelter was too small to handle the demand from Manhattan and the surrounding region. It did not meet the Community’s expectations of the type of animal sheltering and control they wished Manhattan to provide. The public made it apparent the approach to animal sheltering and control was unacceptable and demanded a more modern, progressive approach. They demanded professional animal control officers replace the old style dogcatcher. They made it very clear they wanted Manhattan’s Animal Shelter to hold the animals longer and provide them with a chance to be reclaimed or adopted.

In 1997, the Riley County Health Board created an Animal Shelter Committee to address the Animal Shelter. The Committee met on a number of occasions in 1997 and 1998. The Committee identified needs for a renovated and expanded facility to address noise, ventilation, space, and vicious animal handling areas. The Committee also began preliminary design work with Connolly Architects, Midland, Texas. Connolly Architects assisted the Committee in identifying issues and achieving a preliminary design for the facility. The design proposed by Connolly called for a price tag in excess of $1 million. It was also envisioned by the Committee that it would take additional staff to effectively manage the shelter to meet the needs of the community and surrounding region.

After several years of discussion at the Health Board and City Commission levels, on January 19, 1999, the City Commission authorized a request for proposals for professional architectural/engineering services to expand and improve the T. Russell Reitz Regional Animal Shelter. As a result of that process, BG Consultants Inc., of Manhattan, Kansas, with Dan Hall as the lead architect, was selected to provide these services to the City. In addition, a steering committee was created to work with the architect on the project. The steering committee consisted of Dr. Roger Fingland, KSU Veterinary Medical School; Dr. Russ Frey, Riley County Commission and Riley County/Manhattan Health Board; Dr. Roger Reitz, Mayor; Dr. Barbara Kolde, Pottawatomie County Commission; Dr. Deborah Diel-Nelson, Blue Hills Animal Hospital; Jody Kingery-Page, Animal Shelter Supervisor; Gwen Kropf, Humane Society; and Ron Fehr and Diane Stoddard, City Administration.

In the final design, finished space was included for visiting rooms, a night drop, and an isolation room that included a fenced outdoor area that would cost an estimated $100,000 to complete that was not included in the original budget. Because of the importance of these additions, Mayor Reitz appointed a fundraising committee to raise private funds to support part of the project. The fundraising committee consisted of Dr. Jake Mosier (Chair), Mayor Roger Reitz, Commissioner Karen McCulloh; Courtney Smith, Gwen Kropf, Jody Kingery-Page, David Kreller, Marty Vanier, Dr. Deborah Diehl-Nelson, Barbara Leith, Diane Stoddard, Ron Fehr, and Gary Fees.

The fundraising committee investigated foundations, grants, private corporations, and developed a grass roots campaign to contact individuals in the community to donate money to the Animal Shelter construction. The fundraising committee did an excellent job raising approximately $50,000 in private funds to support the project.

In 2000, the City of Manhattan completed the additional 4,495 square feet of new facility that was added to the current 2,220 square feet to meet the growing needs to manage the dog and cat problems in Manhattan and the surrounding region. The improvements included the following: renovations of the existing building; an examination/euthanasia room; a public/administrative addition at the southwest corner of the existing facility; increased space for kittens and cats (36 cages); isolated space for dangerous dogs and other quarantine/isolation areas for sick animals; and an addition of a dog center providing 15 runs or space for 30 dogs at maximum occupancy. The improvements also provided for the renovation of the existing dog center into a puppy center providing 20 cages to house puppies or other dogs. The cost of the renovation/expansion to the taxpayers was $675,000.

Renovation and expansion of the shelter under the leadership of the City Commission has allowed City Administration to provide solutions to correct, enhance, and promote professionalism in animal sheltering and control for the Manhattan community and surrounding region. Also, with the new expansion and professional staff the City has decreased its liability exposure, provided for a safer community, and limited health risks associated with dogs and cats running at large.


Since the opening of the new animal shelter, the response from the community has been very positive. The relationship with Municipal Court and the Riley County Police Department (RCPD) on animal control issues has been excellent. It has allowed for effective prosecution of cases and allowed RCPD to concentrate on the people business of law enforcement while allowing the Animal Shelter to concentrate on animal issues.

Citizens cannot afford to underestimate the importance and value of professional Animal Sheltering and Control. As our suburban areas and our small towns continue to grow, the population density even in the most rural areas compounds the problems created by nuisance strays and unwanted animals.

The City of Manhattan’s animal shelter and control are on the front lines protecting the public and their property from dangerous animals and nuisance strays. They enforce ordinances, promote responsible pet ownership, humane treatment for all animals, and adoptions of previously unwanted animals. Manhattan’s animal control officers respond to over an average of 2,000 calls for service each year for the City and Riley County. The response to these calls tells a story of incidents which were resolved and did not escalate to dangerous or deadly situations.

The Center for Disease Control says that animal bites are one of the major health issues facing America’s children with half of all children being bitten by the time they are age 12. Bodily injury liability claims on homeowner’s insurance policies due to dog bites, already a large percentage of total claims, is rising at the rate of about 2% per year.

The conviction of a Milford woman for second degree murder in the death of a young boy from an attack by her dogs underscores the criminal, as well as civil, liabilities that society is beginning to demand of animal owners, law enforcement, animal shelters, and the legal system.

In 1997 and 1998 the City Commission spent several meetings dealing with a dangerous dog issue in the Manhattan community, which brought forth ordinance changes concerning dangerous dogs. Through a professional staff and professionally ran animal shelter, City Administration has been able to be proactive with issues concerning dogs and cats rather than being reactive, such as the case in Milford with the death of a young man. Since the renovation, there have been 74 potentially dangerous dogs housed at the Animal Shelter in the isolated space for dangerous dogs. This protects the public and provides for a safe working environment for animal shelter staff.

Please note the enclosed memorandum from Bernie Hayen, Director of Finance. Mr. Hayen will be on hand at the meeting to discuss the financial aspects of the Shelter operation. Importantly, Mr. Hayen’s memo shows that the City’s contribution to the operational cost of the animal shelter has not changed dramatically over the nine year period. This is despite the significant expansion to the shelter as of 2000. Efficiencies and streamlining have enabled the City’s operational costs to remain fairly steady.


1. The Commission should provide any direction, which it deems necessary as a result of the activity update. However, no official action may be taken, as this is a Work Session.


The T. Russell Reitz Regional Animal Shelter provides a service that is utilized by many citizens of the City of Manhattan and the surrounding region. City Administration continues to streamline the operations of the Animal Shelter and educate the community to minimize the budget impact and maximize the needed service that the community needs and wants.