Downtown Franklin is going to the dogs.
And happily so.
A new pet friendly program launches Friday, June 16 that includes more than 80 area businesses, merchants and restaurants. It is the culmination of much research, work, study and planning by MARS Petcare, The City of Franklin, Downtown Franklin Association, the Heritage Foundation and the Williamson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The welcome mats go out to pets and their people that afternoon beginning at 2 p.m. with the official kickoff of a pet friendly downtown Franklin. This “pawsome party” gets started with official remarks from Mark Johnson, regional president, Mars Petcare North America; Franklin Mayor Ken Moore; and Kristy Williams, Downtown Franklin Association Main Street Director.
“We know that pets make life better, but we also recognize there are barriers to making communities more pet-friendly,” explained Mark Johnson, Regional President for Mars Petcare North America. “Through a new program called, “Pets Welcome,” we’re going to be tackling some of the barriers and educating around the benefits of welcoming pets in more public places. We’ll use what we learn in this pilot in Franklin to apply to the model for a pet-friendly city that we’re creating with our partners through BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™.”
In a nugget, Downtown Franklin is opening its doors to pets and their people in a new and energized way. Shoppers will see stickers on doors and windows declaring the businesses welcome pets.
More water bowls will be dotting Main Street, more treat jars will be on shop counters, more restaurant patios will be pet friendly, though those will generally be a BYOB (bring your own bowl) for Fido if he wants to have lunch or dinner with his people.
The pilot program aims to create a model for cities, large and small, across the country to embrace a more pet friendly atmosphere.
It should come as no surprise that Mars Petcare, headquartered in Williamson County, spearheads research and programs that benefit pets and their people. After all, corporate offices are pet friendly. Every day is bring your dog to work day there.
“It’s a fantastic work environment,” says Jam Stewart, director of corporate communications. “As a company, we recognize the importance of pets in people’s lives and in the lives of communities. Research shows that 84 million households in this country include pets. Millennials have more pets than children. Surveys have shown that more people meet neighbors and make new friends via their pets than even in church. Pets are vital family members.”
Mars has long supported animal welfare organizations; this new initiative is aimed at broadening the inclusion of pets in both urban and suburban settings.
“We believe communities that welcome pets, both in residential and commercial aspects, are more livable, more enjoyable,” she said. “Some communities restrict breeds; others restrict by size and weight. We see some long held ideas like that to be archaic. We hope our work and research, and this pilot program in downtown Franklin, will be a roadmap for communities across the country.”
Mars Petcare is also working with Metropolitan Nashville with a pilot program.
“We’re fortunate to have urban Nashville and suburban Franklin both right here in our backyard,” she said.
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore was quick to get on board with the Mars initiative. He says pets are good for the community and good for business.
“We are a tourist destination; people love to travel with their pets, so welcoming both only bodes well for us,” he said. “It’s important for pet owners to be responsible and this pilot program includes that as one of its facets.”
He and his wife, Linda, are dog lovers. Likely, Franklin’s first dogs, Jack and Mike Moore, will be on hand to help roll out the pet friendly red carpet not only on official launch day, June 16 but most days since the family lives in Downtown Franklin.
“As a City, we applaud Mars for creating this program, its policies and plans,” said the Mayor.
As to the launch, it’s going to be a great day to take your dog to Franklin for the festivities. Stop, sit and stay for a commemorative photo in a photo booth, enjoy “Yappy Hour” on restaurant patios, browse the shops and boutiques.
For families without pets, Williamson County Animal Center will be on hand with pets looking for forever homes. Situation solved.
This pilot pet friendly program in Downtown Franklin will run through the summer and into early fall.
Talk about the dog days of summer…..
“We want this pilot program to be best in class as far as providing roadmaps not just for Franklin and Nashville, but for communities all across the country,” said Stewart.
Joni Cole, owner of Grays on Main, has been actively involved in the pet friendly pilot program planning.
“Welcoming pets helps foster our sense of community,” she said. “When you can bring your pets to eat and shop, you feel more at home. You’re likely to stay longer and spend more money here in Downtown Franklin whether you’re a resident or a visitor.”
Ellie Westman Chin of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, also applauds this Mars Petcare initiative.
“According to TripAdvisor, 53 percent of pet owners travel with their pets. When unable to travel with pets, 35% take shorter vacations and 25% take fewer overall. Franklin is a sought after destination; we are excited to welcome tourists and their pets here,” she said.
For more information vist www.facebook.com/marspetcareus.