Jamie Hawkins started a dog rescue organization called Tennessee Death Row Dogs a little over year ago. I originally heard about the organization through their Facebook page. Once I started following them, I would stare at my computer in near tears when I saw the posts. Jamie is someone we can all look up to. She works full-time and she is a full-time student, yet her nights and weekends are filled with saving dogs. Tennessee Death Row Dogs (TDRD) focuses on dogs that urgently need help and are literally days from euthanasia.
Definition of Euthanasia:
“The act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
We wanted Jamie to be our December entrepreneur because this is the time of the year to think outside of your own needs. The definition of euthanasia does not correlate with what is going on down the road from you. Dogs that are perfectly healthy and loving are being euthanized everyday. They aren’t always sick or injured and it isn’t for mercy. Animals are being bred by humans, and then they are paying the ultimate price – death. Look outside of your self this holiday season, donate to a Tennessee Death Row Dogs or get involved – find out how.
How long have you lived in Nashville?
My husband and I moved to the Nashville area in July of 2009. We previously lived in NC where we were Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune.
When did you start your company? Where did you get the idea for Tennessee Death Row Dogs?
A year after our move here, we decided to adopt a puppy. We found one at a local rescue and heard the story of them saving his very pregnant mother from euthanasia. I thought of how different her fate, as well as the fate of her ten puppies would have been if it weren’t for these wonderful people.
On a drive to work one morning, I brainstormed ways to help get more exposure for dogs in our state facing euthanasia. Many of our state’s shelters still don’t list pets online and they are in rural areas that don’t have a lot of foot traffic. I wanted to try reaching out to these shelters and asking for their “list” to post them on Facebook for people to view and share. This is when Tennessee Death Row Dogs was born and the Facebook page was started in August of 2011. As time went on the page grew in popularity, people from all over the country wanted to donate towards the rescue of these dogs. It was then in November of 2011 that we officially became a rescue and starting saving dogs ourselves, completing their vaccinations, spay/neuters, etc. and offering them for adoption.
I know you don’t work full-time on Tennessee Death Row Dogs, tell us about your day-to-day life.
Aside from the rescue and admin duties of the Facebook page, I also have a full-time job and I’m a full-time student working towards my MBA in finance from Post University. My weekends are usually packed full of adoption events and fundraisers to help us save more dogs. It keeps me very busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tell us about how Tennessee Death Row Dogs has grown over the past year.
When I started the Facebook page, I was very unsure of how it would be received by the public. I, of course, thought it was a great idea, but I also knew that this was a delicate issue. Many people don’t realize that healthy dogs and cats are still euthanized in shelters due to space limitations. In the minds of many, all the shelter dogs have all the time in the world to find their dream families. As much as I wish that were true, unfortunately that simply isn’t the case. In just over a year, our Facebook page is quickly reaching 15,000 followers and the majority of the dogs posted there are either adopted or rescued. It has become more than I ever could have hoped for. In the last year, over 1,200 dogs posted there can now be found in the “Safe” albums and we have adopted out over 160 dogs through our rescue.
What is the #1 objective of Tennessee Death Row Dogs?
Our goal is to save as many dogs as we can and to raise awareness for the plight of all animals that end up in kill shelters. If people would simply start spaying and neutering their pets, it would greatly decrease the number of dogs and cats who lose their lives every day.
What is the best way for people to get involved and help?
Sharing the dogs on our Facebook page is a huge help. We are also always in need of foster parents to provide temporary homes for the dogs we save. Fundraising is also a critical need and we are always looking for help, as well as creative, fresh fundraising ideas. Find out how to donate here.
How does Tennessee compare nationally in regards to these issues?
From the statistics I’ve researched, Tennessee is just over the national average for the percentage of animals euthanized annually at 65% percent. There are some shelters in TN that have almost a 90% euthanasia rate. Most of the dogs and cats that do make it out of those shelters are owner reclaimed pets. According to the Humane Society of the United States, Tennessee also has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation.
You have a unique position as an entrepreneur because obviously, everyone wishes this problem didn’t exist. How can you change Nashville and the surrounding areas to decrease the overall problem of dog abuse and neglect?
We work hard to raise awareness for shelter dogs and to also share ways that people can help. One of the most important things is for people to spay and neuter their animals. Decreasing the pet population is one way to ensure that millions don’t continue to be euthanized every year. Secondly, people can opt to adopt their next dog instead of buying one from a breeder. Every dog rescued or adopted from a shelter saves a life and sometimes two. The open kennel provided by one dog may allow another dog enough time to be adopted as well. Sadly, many dogs are euthanized for space when shelters become full because there is no kennel space for incoming dogs.
Why is adopting a dog through a rescue organization so important?
Adopting is critical because these are great dogs that have done nothing wrong and don’t deserve to die. They are typically young healthy dogs that have great temperaments and can be wonderful companions if given the chance. I have one shelter dog that was nearly killed and is now our rescue mascot. He travels with us to all of our events, greeting people and collecting donations. I also have two personal dogs that I adopted in 2010 that have been the best dogs I ever could have hoped for. The perception some people have is that shelters don’t have good dogs and they have to go to a breeder for a perfect dog. That’s simply untrue and 25% of all dogs in shelters actually came from breeders that are contributing to the number of homeless pets. Rescues all across the country have great dogs that are available for adoption right now. For every dog we adopt out, that is one more dog we can save from euthanasia in a TN shelter.
What’s your dream goal for Tennessee Death Row Dogs?
I hope that someday there will no longer be a need to rescue dogs from death row. In order for that to happen, shelters will have to work harder to reach no-kill status. This change can’t occur overnight, but it is possible and can be accomplished, regardless of what the critics say. Until then, we hope to someday have a few acres and a facility of our own that will allow us to save many more dogs. We hope to be able to raise money to fund such a project in the years to come. We would also like to help strengthen current laws to provide better protection to all animals in our state.