On June 16-17, we’re inviting all those who love pets to join us as we launch our “Pets Welcome” business pilot in Downtown Franklin as part of a community celebration where visitors can learn and give feedback on innovative designs that will help make cities more pet-friendly. This BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ program is in partnership with Mars Petcare.We sat down for a Q&A with Joni Cole, DFA VP of Economic Vitality for more details on how Franklin is embracing Pets Initiative. 

Q: What is the “Better Cities for Pets” program?
A: BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ is a Mars Petcare program that aims to create enough places for every dog and cat to live, visit and play by supporting shelters, homes, businesses and parks. Mars Petcare is teaming up with the Downtown Franklin Association,the City of Franklin, the Williamson County CVB, the Heritage Foundation and the Nashville Civic Design Center to make downtown Franklin a better place for pets. They chose us for the pilot because Franklin is right in Mars Petcare’s backyard, but it’s also a booming suburban area experiencing a lot of economic growth, as well as home to many local businesses in the Downtown area, making it perfect for this pilot program. It’s such an honor and blessing that they chose us. More than 80 businesses have come on board, and ultimately the program will make us more pet, family and tourist friendly. Since we are the pilot, feedback and results from welcoming more pets in downtown Franklin will be used as learnings that can be applied to the model for a pet-friendly city, which Mars intends to roll out to additional cities in the future. We believe that welcoming more pets in more places will draw more people here and help us to become an even more popular destination.

Q: In what ways will downtown Franklin become more accommodating to pets and their owners?
A: All businesses participating in the “Pets Welcome” business pilot will have a toolkit of information and materials that make their businesses more welcoming to pets and pet parents. For example, businesses will have matching water bowls, so there will be plenty of water downtown for pets. Some businesses will have treats for pets as well. Mars Petcare and its partners are looking at innovative ways to incorporate more green space into urban areas. We will have waste stations scattered throughout town, so that our streets stay clean. Business owners will also receive a code of conduct for how pets should behave in stores, pet behavior management tips and more.

Q: Are pets allowed in stores?
A: I personally called and visited every single business, and probably 95 percent are on board in some way. It’s ultimately up to each business to decide whether their space is safe to welcome pets. Not everyone can have pets come inside their business, like at GRAY’s — but I can still be part of the program. For example, the participating businesses have a choice of window clings they can use, from allowing pets inside, only on patios, and even a sign that says “We love pets, but aren’t allowed to have them inside,” which is what we will have at GRAY’S. Businesses such as GRAY’S that can’t have pets inside for legal reasons can still participate by having water bowls outside and going on the sidewalk to say hello to passing pets.

Q: When is the launch of the program?
A: The launch is set for Friday, June 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. in front of Mellow Mushroom. Mayor Moore and Mark Johnson, president of Mars Petcare US will speak. In addition, there will be a pop-up dog park, a “dog walks for donations” program where Mars will donate to the Williamson County Animal Shelter for every 10 minutes an adoptable dog is walked, and even an opportunity for pet adoptions. Some businesses with outdoor patio areas will participate in a “Yappy Hour” from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. by offering drink specials. The pop-up dog park and adoptions will also be open on Saturday, June 17, so the fun will continue through the weekend!

We couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this new program! We know downtown Franklin is already an amazing place for people — now let’s make it even better for our furry friends! Stay tuned for more news on the BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ program, and don’t miss the launch on Friday, June 16, in #DowntownFranklin!