Students build dog houses for Johnson County Humane Society

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — High school students in Johnson County are working bell-to-bell to help save the lives of man’s best friend this winter. 

Students at Whiteland High School, Greenwood High School, Indian Creek High School, and Franklin Community High School are building dog houses for a good grade and for the good of dogs left out in the cold. 

With record-breaking temperatures and wind chills in central Indiana this year, employees of the Johnson County Humane Society (JCHS) say they receive between eight and 15 calls a week from neighbors concerned about dogs outside in their area. 

Jennifer Estrada, office manager at the JCHS, says her agency would like to help more people but are out of resources. Since the humane society is not a lawful animal control agency, she cannot issue citations or remove an animal from someone’s yard.

“It’s hard,” she said. “We are a rescue, therefore we can’t go into the community and enter someone’s property. They’re frustrated with us; we’re frustrated we can’t get more help out.”

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Estrada says actually, removing pets and issuing citations isn’t the ideal solution.

“I think there’s a misconception that these people don’t care for their animals. It’s not that they don’t care, they just don’t have the resources to give the proper care,” said Estrada.

Charles Hessman, industrial technology teacher at Franklin Community High School, says he received an email from JCHS asking for help. He says his class often builds wooden model homes as a design and construction project, but that the homes often end up in the trash. If the students build something they’ll donate, Hessman says that’s a better use of his resources, students’ skills and also teaches a lesson in supporting Johnson County families. 

“I thought, well sure. It’s a great community project. It’s a good hands-on, it’s an actual purpose project where they could see an actual project being made and being useful,” he said. 

Hessman says often, he’ll have students tell him the industrial tech class is their favorite time of the day, or that they only come to school to attend his class. He says projects like this help. 

“They’re engaged. They like coming to this class. My class sizes are jumping due to the fact that we do hands-on,” said Hessman. 

Hessman received several donations from Johnson County businesses of shingles, 2×4’s, plywood, and insulation. He and the students have built two dog houses with four more almost complete. He hopes to bring between six and eight doghouses to the JCHS from this class. 

“They’re pretty heavy-duty doghouses. Definitely not going to be getting cold in the winter because they are insulated,” said Sam Wood, a senior in Mr. Hessman’s class. “If you don’t do your job then you might let a dog get wet when it’s raining or get cold in the winter.”

Hessman, a dog owner himself, says he hopes to continue the project next semester with more donated materials. 

“If this saves a dog’s life, that’s well worth the project,” said Hessman. 

“It’s just thinking of a solution. A solution better than a citation,” agreed Estrada at JCHS. 

If you’d like to donate high-quality materials for next semester’s dog house project, please contact Charles Hessman at Franklin Community High School at 317-750-4159 or hessmanc@franklinschools.org.