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Young Williams Animal Shelter: Finding Forever Homes For Every Pet

By Sherri Gardner Howell

You never forget your first four-legged friend.

Maybe it was a furry kitten. Perhaps it was a yappy pup. They are our best friends, our most loyal confidantes. These days our pets are more beloved than ever before. There are doggie water bowls at restaurants, Starbucks’ pup cups and pet treats at bank and dry cleaner drive-throughs. They come to work with us; they get spa days and their own parks. No longer relegated to chains in cramped back yards and cardboard-thin houses in the freezing cold, our pets are loved and well-treated.

Except when they aren’t.
Except when they are chained and punished and starved.
Except when they are tossed out of moving cars or crated in a box and abandoned,
with a litter still suckling, in some remote area miles from home.
Except when they are left behind or are “just too much to handle.”

Young-Williams Animal Center sees the worst that can happen to a pet every day.

CEO Janet Testerman began her involvement with Young-Williams as a fan of their work. “I did a public service spot for them with Reilly, my soulmate dog, who often accompanied me to work and went to events like Mardi Growl and Black Tie and Tails,” remembers Testerman.

In 2011, Testerman, then in internal communications with Scripps Networks Interactive, having previously been with E.W. Scripps as executive editor of “Knoxville Magazine” and “Skirt!” magazine, was recruited to join the Young-Williams board.

In 2016, at the same time a leadership change was happening at Young-Williams, Testerman was contemplating a career change. Her years of volunteer work with Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation (now Visit Knoxville), Bijou Theatre, Leadership Knoxville and Dogwood Arts, her love of animals and passion for animal welfare and her background in communications and marketing made the leadership spot at Young-Williams “a good fit for me and, I believed, for the organization,”says Testerman.

She has been CEO since September 2016. Young-Williams has been through transformational changes since opening in January 2001 as the Knoxville/Knox County Animal Welfare Center. Needs continued to grow for the county’s pet population in the early 2000s, and a group of concerned citizens, who included attorneys Lindsay Young and Mark Williams, wanted a larger and more sophisticated facility. They began a campaign to build the new center as a partnership with the city and county along with private citizens who shared a passion for our community’s pets in need.

Young-Williams Animal Center moved into a new $3.7 million dollar facility in May 2004. Young-Williams Animal Village opened in 2010 and is home to a satellite adoption floor as well as Young-Williams Spay/Neuter Solutions.

“The changes are deeper than bricks and mortar,” says Testerman. “ Our vision is a home for every pet. Our mission is to lead the community to end pet homelessness, promote animal welfare and enhance that human-animal bond. We had been a government-supported agency and just became a 501(c)(3) in 2012. So, as an independent nonprofit, we are still a toddler, growing and refining our infrastructure as we continue to be self-sustaining.

“Looking to the future, we have to balance lofty goals and new initiatives with the breadth of programs and services we currently provide.” Testerman says. “Pet homelessness isn’t a Young-Williams problem; it’s a community problem. Saving animals’ lives is a collaborative effort, which is why we work with rescue groups, other county shelters and local organizations to share resources and problem solve together.”

Young-Williams is still a municipal shelter and contracts with the city and county to house and shelter the animals animal control officers pick up. As an open-intake facility, Young-Williams cannot guarantee a live outcome for every animal that enters the system. “We get the hit-by-cars and seriously ill or injured animals along with wildlife,” says Testerman. “Last year, we took in more than 10,500 animals. Our goal is to productively decrease intake by providing solutions for pet owners and simultaneously achieve and maintain a 90 percent-plus live outcome for shelter pets, which means saving all medically and behaviorally treatable animals.”

They ended 2017 with an 84 percent save rate, up from 68 percent in 2016. “Young-Williams will not euthanize animals due to space or length of stay,” says Testerman. The scope of services offered at Young-Williams is a surprise to many people. “I thought I was well-versed in
all we do,” says Testerman, “but once I joined the day-today operations, I was amazed at all the moving parts our team of 60 plus oversees every day.”

There are still challenges as the center works to implement industry best practices, says Testerman. “At the end of the day, we are serving a great need that exists in our community and every community around the country. That said, we have a great story to tell about saving lives and changing lives, and we get to make that happen every day.”

First Step For Lost & Found

If your pet is missing, Young-Williams Animal Center should be your first stop. Call 865-215-6599 or go to

As the only facility in Knox County permitted to house stray animals, it is the most likely
place to find your missing dog or cat. The staff regularly surfs Facebook and lost animal social media sites in hopes of reuniting pets with their humans.

If you find a pet in the city or county, bring it to:

3201 Division Street
10 a.m.- 6 p.m. daily (closed 1-2 p.m.).

If you see an animal you believe is a stray and are unable to bring it in, call Knoxville City Animal Control at 865-215-7457 or Knox County Animal Control at 865-215-6658, depending on your location.

Stray animals brought to the shelter are legally held for three days if they don’t have identification and five days if they have a tag or microchip. After that holding period, animals are made available for adoption.

Young-Williams will insert a microchip in your pet for $15. Hours are Monday-Friday, 2-5 p.m. and walk ins are welcome.

Projects and Services of Williams Animal Center

Pet adoption centers at both facilities and Petco, Pet Supermarket and Agrifeed Pet

Intake center for strays, owner surrenders, bite quarantines and victims of animal cruelty

Pet Resource Center to assist pet owners looking to surrender an animal with a goal
of providing resources to keep the pet in the home. These resources include, emergency food pantry, guidance on behavior management and low-cost vet care, pet-friendly housing, rehoming alternatives outside the shelter, and more.

-Low-cost microchipping
-Low-cost owner-requested euthanasia for end of life illnesses or injuries
-Low-cost spay/neuter program at the Village and on the Spay Shuttle mobile unit
-Outreach programs including Paws for Reading, Doggie Day Trips, Tails of the Trails, Walk-a-Cop and Adoption Sleepovers

Low Fees and Quiet Time

Two of the most recent changes made at Young-Williams Animal Center are everyday low adoption fees and extended hours for the public.

Adoption fees for adult dogs and seniors are only $40. Kittens are BOGO (buy one, get
one) for $100, and adult cats are FREE over the age of three. All animals are vaccinated,
microchipped and spay/neutered.

The shelter is a busy place with lots of people feeding, walking, cuddling and grooming and vet-checks, so they’re closed from 1-2 p.m. daily for “quiet time.”

“We started nap time for our animals,” says CEO Janet Testerman.

“One of our goals has been to provide enrichment for the animals and the best quality of life while they’re with us. So, once a day, we turn off the lights and close the animal rooms so they can decompress.”

Ways To Help?

Young-Williams Animal Center has many ways to help every day. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old, fill out a volunteer application, attend a volunteer orientation and pay a one-time fee of $30 to cover name tags, shirt and program expenses. Volunteers donate at least eight hours each month for a minimum of six months on a set schedule of the volunteer’s choosing.


Some Volunteer Duties

Walk and socialize dogs
Foster animals
Greet visitors
Be a “pet detective” and help reunite owners with lost pets
Help feed and clean the animals
Support the events and fundraising team
Assist with administrative duties 
Take part in educational and outreach programs
Join the ‘Petography’ team 
Answer Phones
Facilitate doggie playgroups

Other Ways to Help

Donate food for the emergency food pantry
Supply items for the veterinary clinic
Purchase a gift from the wish list
Donate items on the Shelter Wishlist at

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