Champaign County man’s dream of $3M animal sanctuary ready to open

Oct 15, 2017

A Champaign County animal shelter will open a brand new facility for dogs at the end of the month, fulfilling the dream of a man who left behind $3 million for the project.

David Robert Wetzell died in 2014. He directed that his estate be used to create the Champaign County Animal Welfare League on a secluded farm.

Tiger Franks was chosen as the shelter’s executive director. She and the board have worked to build the sanctuary to Wetzell’s specifications for the past few years at the farm, 3858 Ohio 56 outside Mechanicsburg.

“We have followed his wishes,” Franks said. “It’s a work in progress but we are following everything that he wanted.”

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The new facility that will open Oct. 28 and includes classrooms for training, a grooming room, indoor dog park and room dedicated to caring for senior dogs.

“This is a state of the art place,” she said. “It’s definitely something that’s needed in our area.”

The campus also has two outdoor agility courses and walking trails. Franks has plans to build an outdoor pool, pet cemetery and a “Kitty City” in the coming years.

“The visions are endless for this campus,” she said. “This is just a wonderful dream.”

The shelter can house about 30 dogs, Franks said, and she doesn’t want that number to increase too much.

“We don’t want to get so many animals that we’re not doing any of them any good,” Franks said.

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The welfare league will offer yearly memberships for anyone who’d like to use the facilities, including the grooming areas and agility courses. Family memberships are $150 per year and single memberships are $100 per year, Franks said. Discounts are available for seniors, veterans and first responders.

The shelter also operates a low-cost clinic.

A grand opening event for the new facility will be held at the farm from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 28. Area rescues and shelters are invited to attend and an adoption event will be held throughout the day. Vendors and activities will also be at the sanctuary. The event is rain or shine.

For more information on the grand opening or on the Champaign County Welfare League, call 937-834-5236.