Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
The Appalachian Animal Rescue Center in Franklin is gearing up for expansion with the first, a quarter mile walking trail meandering through the center’s property, set to begin construction on July 11.
“We have four acres around the facility that we want to take advantage of,” said AARC board member Jeanne Wright. “The walking trail will begin at the back of the shelter and will have a serpent-like design up the mountain to the top of the ridge where the trail will flatten out and have beautiful views. Then the trail will head back down the mountain to the parking lot.”
According to Wright, the vision behind the walking trail, which is estimated to cost around $5,000, is to provide volunteer dog walkers with a safe, shaded trail to take the center’s four-legged residents. On average, AARC has anywhere between 5-10 volunteer dog walkers who visit the shelter three days a week. The volunteers take time to visit with every dog at the shelter and get them out of the kennel for exercise and play. Wright said that right now, the dog walkers utilize the road that leads up to the shelter, but with cars going in and out of the facility, safety is a concern for both the volunteers and the animals. The trail will also serve as an private area for potential adopters to visit and interact with pets to find the perfect fit for their families.
During operating hours, the trial will be reserved for animals of the shelter — to give them exercise, to socialize them, and to ensure that their behavior are ideal for adoption. When the shelter is closed, AARC Board President Cathy Howman said she hopes the walking trail becomes a place the public can use.
AARC has contracted with a local landscaper who is scheduled to begin work on the trail on July 11. Weather permitting, it is expected to take about a week to complete the project. AARC is currently accepting donations to help cover the cost of the $5,000 project. The AARC is hosting a “Fill the Van” fundraiser Saturday, July 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Tractor Supply and those interested in contributing to the new walking trail, can do so there with donations being made specifically for the trail. If you are interested in volunteering as a dog walker, the shelter is in need of additional volunteers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.- to 1 p.m.
While the walking trail is one of the more visible, public oriented projects AARC is currently working on, the staff and volunteers at AARC have been working to renovate the original building on the property for the last several years to serve as an intake facility for new animals.
According to Howman, when animals arrive at the facility, there is a mandated quarantine period for the animal before they can socialize with the other pets.
“At least two times a year we have to shut down the entry center because an animal comes to us with something like Parvo and the only way to keep it from spreading is to shut everything down and close to the public,” she said. “We have to clean everything top to bottom with bleach, quarantine the animals, and remain closed until it is safe.”
Once completed, the facility’s original building will serve as an intake center for all animals coming into the facility. The building, which was first built in the 1968 and served as the home to AARC until the late ’90s when the center expanded into its current building, will feature a quarantine area for cats, a laundry room for shelter essentials, and individual kennels for new dogs and puppies. The building is expected to have capacity to house 80 animals if needed and will also have a small room for a staff quarters in the event something would require someone to stay overnight at the shelter to tend to the animals.
AARC board secretary and shelter volunteer Judy Wiley noted that the new intake facility will go a long way in increasing the services the shelter is able to provide to the community to better serve both the public and the animals.
The original building fund for the project was more than $52,000 — but after electrical, plumbing, and other infrastructure repairs in conjunction the ever-rising cost of supplies, AARC has $7,000 remaining in the fund, which is only a fraction of what is needed to complete the project.
AARC Director of Operations Todd Ortiz said that the intake facility is desperately needed and hopes to have it completed this year. AARC fundraises for the facility year round, and works to secure grant funds whenever possible — but they hope the community will step up to help complete the new intake building.
“We are so grateful for all the support we have received so far in this process and are thankful to have organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the LBJ Job Corps donating their time and talents to renovate the building,” said Howman. “With the cost of building materials rising every day, we don’t know what we are going to need to complete it, but we do know we have more money we need to raise to make sure it gets completed.”
In addition to donations and grants, AARC receives funding through its own Thrift Store, located at 1521 Old Murphy Road in Franklin. The thrift store opened in 2007 and serves as an important financial resource for the facility.
The shelter, located at 851 Lake Emory Road in Franklin, regularly houses some 80-100 dogs and cats. Animal care technicians provide for the animals year round. They also offer low-cost spaying and neutering, vaccines, and microchip implantation through Humane Alliance, and ASPCA clinic in Asheville. As a no-kill shelter, AARC takes in animals from the public, as well as animals from the county shelter, and places them in permanent homes.
For those interested in supporting Appalachian Animal Rescue, call 828.524.4588 for more details.