Young-Williams humming along with CEO Testerman

Tom KingFarragut

September will mark Janet Testerman’s third year as the CEO of the Young-Williams Animal Center, which serves as the municipal shelter for Knoxville and Knox County.  The shelter turns no animal away, and last year took in nearly 11,000 animals (about 50/50 cats and dogs). Good things are happening.

This marriage between Testerman and Young-Williams seems to be working very effectively for all parties, human and otherwise. It is a big organization that she manages:

  • 70 full-time and part-time employees
  • A volunteer component of 900 with some 300 being very active. In 2018, 930 volunteers worked 16,000 hours, equal to $364,000 in service hours.
  • A $5 million budget
  • Two facilities to oversee, one downtown (3201 Division St.) and one on Bearden Hill (Animal Village at 6400 Kingston Pike)

This almost sounds like one of those things in life that was meant to be – sooner or later – Testerman and the shelter. Testerman was a longtime supporter of the shelter and served on the board of directors for five years before becoming the interim director, ultimately shedding the interim title. And it is not surprising that she adopted her Dachshund, Lollie, from Young-Williams in 2014.

Visiting after Wednesday’s meeting are Farragut Rotarian Julie Blaylock with Edith (who is looking for a home), Young-Williams CEO Janet Testerman and Stephanie Vozar, the shelter’s development director.

Testerman spoke to the Rotary Club of Farragut at Fox Den Country Club. With her were development director Stephanie Vozar and a sweet 12-year-old mixed breed girl named Edith, who loved getting pets and treats and making new friends with her big paws and loving eyes.

Testerman says: “Our mission is to lead the community to end pet homelessness, promote animal welfare and enhance the human-animal bond. This mission will help fulfill our vision of finding a (happy, healthy) home for every pet.

“Our job is to facilitate happy endings.”

Interestingly, both facilities are open seven days a week but close each day from 1-2 p.m. “It’s quiet time and we turn the lights off and there’s no noise so the animals can relax and calm down.”

Testerman joined Young-Williams Animal Center from a corporate communications management role at Scripps Networks Interactive. She previously served as executive editor of Knoxville Magazine. Prior to that, she launched E.W. Scripps’ custom publication skirt! Magazine as executive editor in 2007, and she started Testerman Cooperative Catering, a full-service, off-premise catering company, in 1999.

“I truly love what I do,” she says.  “I have a great team and they do a great job.  We are going to continue emphasizing our spay-neuter program and also working more in the low-income areas to cut down on their issues with their pets.”

The shelter has a website page full of great information about the spay-neuter program and other services they offer.

Construction will soon begin on an expansion of the shelter’s resource center where they will have more counseling space and rooms for intake and talking with owners who bring their pets in to possibly give them up for a variety of reasons – financial, becoming too old to care for them or perhaps moving out of town.

Click here to get a better feel about the resource center plus surrendering and adopting animals.

Something that Testerman and everyone at Young-Williams is proud of attaining was “No-Kill Status” where the save rate for the animals was 90 percent. “That is a very difficult status to earn,” she said. “It speaks to the dedication of the staff and to our emphasis as a shelter.”

To make adoptions easier, they ended the time-consuming process of filling out applications and changed to a “conversation-based process.”  “Also, you can take a pet home for three days to make sure that it is the right pet for you,” she explained. “We call it Adoption Sleepovers.”

July 4 is the top date for shelters to take in animals, and the number is staggering – 21 million nationally. “They get scared and run off, people leave gates open having parties, and the animals run off scared and get disoriented,” Testerman explained. “It’s a big problem and it’s the same way here.”

If you’re interested in exploring membership in Farragut Rotary, drop me an email. We meet at 12:15 p.m. each Wednesday at Fox Den Country Club. You also can call me at 865-659-3562.

Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California. He started writing for KnoxTNToday in 2017.

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