In the last decade, what used to be a horse stable has been transformed into a home for cats and dogs, waiting to find a new family.

In 2006, the Humane Society of Johnson County purchased its building on Graham Road, north of Franklin, with a plan to eventually add space to house animals on the property. But that plan took years to achieve, and officials have continued building out the facility over that time.

In the last few weeks, work wrapped up on another build-out, renovating office space as well as adding meet-and-greet rooms where families can get to know the animals they want to adopt and putting in six new kennels for dogs.

The $123,000 project, which was paid for with donations and grants, including one from the Johnson County Community Foundation, allows the Humane Society to continue to fulfill its mission of finding new homes for animals in need, executive director Anne Sutton said.

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“We can help so many more, and we don’t have to say no as often,” Sutton said.

A large portion of the building remains unfinished, and officials aren’t yet sure how they will use that space, Sutton said. That will be determined based on the community’s needs, she said.

The Humane Society doesn’t want to grow beyond what the community needs and what their staff of two full-time and three part-time workers and $150,000 annual budget can provide, Sutton said.

But some ideas could include renovating the current space where cats are housed, including adding an outdoor space where cats can go, she said.

The nonprofit organization has significantly changed in recent years, from a foster-based, volunteer-run organization.

Currently, the facility has six indoor-outdoor kennels for dogs as well as areas for barn cats and feral cats that are being spayed or neutered as part of a program meant to control the stray cat population. This year alone, about 1,000 cats have gone through the program, she said.

In addition, it can house about 15 cats in the free-roaming cat room.

Eleven years ago, when the Humane Society purchased its building at 3825 N. Graham Road, the goal was to eventually have a shelter that could house animals up for adoption. But at the time, the organization relied on foster families to take care of the cats and dogs that came in, with cat adoption events hosted at a local pet supply store and dog adoptions at the Humane Society building once a week.

The group also had a working board, meaning volunteers were in charge of running the nonprofit.

Since then, little by little, the Humane Society has grown.

In 2012, the cat space was renovated to allow cats to stay at the facility, and then in 2015, the room was changed to free roaming, instead of housing all the cats in cages.

Now, cats are only kept in cages due to illness or to slowly adjust them to living in the cat room, Sutton said. A room was also added where a litter of kittens can go if they are brought in.

Two years ago, Sutton was brought on as executive director.

Before the most recent project, the building had three dog kennels. But now, the Humane Society has six indoor/outdoor kennels for dogs, with glass doors, in a newly renovated space.

One noticeable design feature is glass doors for the dogs, avoiding cages or chain-link fencing. That was done purposely, to give the facility a happier, brighter feel, Sutton said.

Animals the Humane Society receives are given up by families who are moving or going through divorce, animals found abandoned outside who may be injured or ill or strays. Some have a sad story, such as Sutton’s adopted dog, Gwen Stefani — named for her hair — who was found outside in the cold and had severe frostbite.

But that isn’t what the Humane Society wants to focus on, she said.

Instead, they focus on their success stories. They remember Stewart, the barn cat who became best friends with a construction worker from Outer Limits Construction, which did the most recent build-out project.

Everyday when he came to work, the cat was there to greet him. The sat together in his truck at lunch time. When the job was finished, the worker took Stewart home to live with him, Sutton said.

That is their goal every day, she said.

“Our job is not to store these animals. Our job is to find them their happy ending (part) two.”

How to help

Here is a look at how you can help the Humane Society of Johnson County:

Volunteer

Volunteers are needed for daily tasks around the Humane Society facility, along with special events.

Call the Humane Society at 317-535-6626.

Donate

You can donate in cash or supplies to the Humane Society or its pet food pantry.

Call the office at 317-535-6626.

Visit their website at http://hsjc.org/

Or look up their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HSJCIndiana/

If you go

Grand Re-Opening of the Humane Society of Johnson County

Where: Humane Society of Johnson County, 3827 N. Graham Road, Franklin

When: 5 – 8 p.m.

What: Food trucks, ice cream and beer, along with tours of the facility

Author photo
Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.