On Jan. 20, Loyd Builders Inc. helped Prairie Paws Animal Shelter set a single-day record in adoptions.

On that winter day, the Ottawa-based business sponsored all pet adoption fees at Prairie Paws, 3173 K-68.

“I think the Loyd Builders adoption event is a perfect example of how we can partner with area businesses to really make an impact,” Melissa Reed, Prairie Paws executive director, said. “Fifty-one dogs and cats went home that day, a record for [one day at the shelter].”

Prairie Paws is looking for other opportunities to partner with area businesses and other nonprofits in 2018, Reed said.

“In the beginning, the organization was doing a lot of small events with a return of $500 to $700,” Reed said. “With the amount of time it takes to do those events, that really didn’t make a lot of sense. So we are trying to streamline those events.”

Instead, Prairie Paws is looking for volunteers to help put on some of the shelter’s fundraising events.

“We’re recruiting volunteers to host our game night, to host our spaghetti dinner,” Reed said. “We’re helping with the marketing side of things, but ultimately it’s the volunteers out in the community throwing these events for us [to help with fundraising]. We have limited staff and availability to raise those funds, so we’re reaching out in the community and asking them to help throw some of these third-party events.

“We’re going to try and raise $60,000 through third-party event revenue this year, and we hope that the community will come and support us,” she said.

Reed’s intuition is the community will lend a helping hand, based on her experiences since taking over as executive director in April 2014.

“Prairie Paws wants to handle all the animal issues in our community and be that resource for people and we are definitely on that track,” Reed said. “Reflecting back on the last four years, I think about the outpouring of support our organization has had — the outpouring I have received from volunteers, city commission, county commission, and from the public asking ‘What can I do to help?’ has been instrumental in propelling us forward.

“I think Ottawa and Franklin County have stepped up to support our organization tremendously, and we’re so fortunate and blessed to have such a supportive community,” she said. “We want to continue to provide the services that our critical in our area but also continue to expand.”

The center ended 2017 with a $12,000 loss — a vast improvement over four years ago when the center showed a $200,000 loss. “We’re making significant progress in right the direction,” Reed said.

Prairie Paws raised $648,061 in 2017 from annual donations and in-kind support to help homeless animals in need. And the shelter continues to serve more animals each year.

“2017 was a record year for us,” Reed said. “We had 1,306 animals come through our shelter. K-State performed over 1,500 spay/neuter for us through our trap-neuter-return program at the shelter. With our trap-neuter-return program we were able to keep 1,470 kittens from being born in our community.”

“We’re working on a three-year plan to look at where the shelter needs to be in 2021 and really focusing on what steps we need to take in order to get there. Through [a recent] community assessment, we saw a lot of different needs... In 2018, we’re strategically planning what new programs and services do we need to offer the community and try to get those prepared for 2019.”

Prairie Paws always has a need for more volunteers, Reed said.

“We’ll be constantly looking for volunteers in the coming year, people who can come out and walk dogs, socialize cats, administrative work, data entry, answering phones, just really tapping into our community for those things,” she said. “We’re going to have our birthday party on June 9. It will be our eighth annual birthday party. So it will be a carnival theme event. This year, our goal is to raise $15,000 through sponsorships. It’s a great community event where people can come out and enjoy the carnival games.”

In 2017, more than 200 guests enjoyed Prairie Paws’ 10th annual Bow Meow event to help homeless pets in need. Supporters helped to raise more than $40,000 through sponsorships, tickets and table sales, and auction and event donations, according to the shelter. Reed said the goal this year is to raise $50,000 at the event this fall.

“We’re going to be in the old historic post office [currently being renovated into an event space], so we’re very excited to book that [venue],” Reed said.

In 2017, the shelter hosted 370 groups that received humane education presentations on topics such as bite prevention, responsible pet ownership and Prairie Paws services. Many of the groups participated in community service projects to support the shelter.

Prairie Paws will be bringing back its Critter Camp this summer, where youth learn about pet ownership and responsibility.

“Just getting the community involved in volunteering, adopting — even just sharing the message on social media is a tremendous help,” Reed said. “People who don’t have financial resources to make donations can help get the word out about the great work that is going on out here. We have 16,000 Facebook fans — our engagement has been off the charts.”

So is the shelter’s work to find loving homes for the animals. In 2017, 204 lost animals were reunited with their families.

In 2017, Prairie Paws increased its overall return to owner rates for stray cats and dogs by 14 percent. The shelter’s success rate of 70 percent returning stray dogs to their owners was more than double the national average, and its 7 percent success rate in returning stray cats to their owners was nearly twice the national average.

“The length of stay averages 25 days for all animals. When I came to the organization a dog’s average length of stay was 80 days and now it’s 20 days,” Reed said.

Prairie Paws’ focus remains on helping the animals in its care.

“One of the new initiatives that we are taking this year is play groups,” Reed said. “They are really important for animals for numerous reasons. The manners, we’ll say, that they are taught in play groups are more than what any of us could teach. They get a lot from the different interactions they have, so it not only helps with behavior and teaching them what’s appropriate it also helps lower their stress.

“Our goal is not just to house these animals and keep them medically healthy but to actually enrich them and focus on their behavior. At the end of the day that makes for more successful adoptions. It’s not just health and well-being, we focus on mental stimulation and make sure we are doing the best for that animal.”