This is not your granddaddy’s animal shelter.
That, in a sense, is the message conveyed by Ondrea Johnson as she led a discussion on the new 35,000-square-foot Williamson County Animal Center that opened two months ago off the former Old Charlotte Pike in Franklin.
Johnson, who has been director of the Animal Center since 2018, was speaking to an audience inside the facility’s community room during Franklin Tomorrow’s April edition of FrankTalks earlier this week. She was on a panel that also included Sam Anderson, community education coordinator for the WCAC, and Scott Pieper, community outreach coordinator.
Johnson spent considerable time with architects and construction professionals as the new center came together over the past year and a half, and she said the finished product is much more conducive toward animal care than it was at the facility the WCAC had been in since 1995.
“We’ve come a long way since 1995 as a community,” Johnson said. “Not only did the county population more than double in that time, but the way we think of animal sheltering has changed drastically."
“The future and present-day of sheltering is not just a place where you can warehouse animals. It is a place where we can serve our community and engage the community around different things besides just adoptions. We have a lot of ability here in this building to engage and assist the community."
“We can create programs here in this building that will help not only the community but will help keep pets out of the shelter. The whole goal of this building is not to warehouse animals, but to keep animals out of this building.”
Johnson went on to explain why such a large facility was needed if the objective is to lessen the number of pets being housed. Knowing the pace of growth of Williamson County over the next couple of decades, a projection can be made as to how many animals will have to be processed every year.
“This building was built for a 20-year life span,” Johnson said. “We know in the next 20 years there is a prediction 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 come through the building every year based on that projected population.”
Anderson, who has been on staff at the shelter for six years, pointed out the difference between the previous location and the current one, especially as it relates to providing community education. FrankTalks, for instance, could not have been held at the old location near Franklin High School.
“Before we got here,” Anderson said, “we did not have any kind of space to hold educational opportunities such as this one. We would have crammed you all into our tiny little lobby. We’d probably all be standing right now.”
Pieper, who came to the Animal Center last May, closed out the panel discussion with a list of numbers from 2021.
There were 4,202 intakes of dogs, cats and a few other animals, with a live release rate of 96.9 percent, and more than 2,100 adoptions took place through the year. A total of 323 dogs and 59 cats were returned to owners, and 3,919 animal lives were saved.
The new WCAC is located on Grisby Hayes Court and officially opened Feb. 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 Sunday.