This is not your grandfather’s animal shelter.
That’s sort of the message Ondrea Johnson conveyed as she led a discussion about the new 35,000 square foot Williamson County Animal Center that opened two months ago off the old Old Charlotte Pike in Franklin.
Johnson, who has served as director of the Animal Center since 2018, was speaking to an audience inside the facility’s community room during FrankTalks’ April edition of Franklin Tomorrow earlier this week. She was part of a panel that also included Sam Anderson, Community Education Coordinator for WCAC, and Scott Pieper, Community Outreach Coordinator.
Johnson spent a lot of time with architects and construction professionals when creating the new center over the past year and a half, and she said the finished product was far more animal-care friendly than it was. was not at the facility where the WCAC had been since 1995.
“We’ve come a long way since 1995 as a community,” Johnson said. “Not only has the county’s population more than doubled during this time, but the way we think about animal housing has changed dramatically.”
“The future and present of the shelter is not just a place where you can store animals. It’s a place where we can serve our community and engage the community around different things besides adoptions. We have a lot of ability here in this building to engage and help the community.”
“We can create programs here in this building that will not only help the community, but help keep pets out of the shelter. The purpose of this building is not to store animals, but to keep animals out of this building.
Johnson went on to explain why such a large facility is necessary if the goal is to reduce the number of housed pets. Knowing the rate of growth in Williamson County over the next two decades, a projection can be made of the number of animals that will need to be treated each year.
“This building was built for a 20-year lifespan,” Johnson said. “We know that in the next 20 years there is a forecast that there will be 500,000 people in Williamson County. So we had to build a building that would accommodate a certain percentage of animals that pass through the building each year based on that projected population.
Anderson, who has been on staff at the shelter for six years, highlighted the difference between the previous location and the current location, especially when it comes to community education. FrankTalks, for example, could not have been held at the old location near Franklin High School.
“Before we got here,” Anderson said, “we had no space to hold educational opportunities like this. We would have you all crammed into our tiny little lobby. We would probably all be up by now.
Pieper, who came to the Animal Center last May, closed the roundtable with a list of 2021 numbers.
There were 4,202 admissions of dogs, cats and a few other animals, with a live release rate of 96.9%, and over 2,100 adoptions took place throughout the year. A total of 323 dogs and 59 cats were returned to their owners and 3,919 animal lives were saved.
The new WCAC is located on Court Grisby Hayes and officially opened on February 14. It is open for adoptions and other services Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and closed on Sunday.