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Meet a CAWA: jme Thomas

August, 8, 2023- As featured in the AAWA newsletter

Founder of the rock and roll-themed, foster-based Motley Zoo Animal Rescue who hangs backstage with Nickelback and Snoop Dogg to help promote rescue and adoption awareness…. Meet jme Thomas, the organization’s dynamic and resilient founder and Executive Director—and CAWA since 2020.


Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) Since: 2020. I got my certification during the shutdowns of the pandemic. I used the time to study!


The Association: Describe yourself in 3 words. jme Thomas: Extremely driven, kind, passionate.


The Association: Describe being a CAWA in 3 words. jme Thomas: Supported, accredited, fellowship.


The Association: Please tell us a little about your organization, and a victory, large or small, you recently celebrated. jme Thomas: I’m not sure it’s as much a celebration, but people have told me I am an inspiration because I just keep going. In 2014 Motley Zoo established the first-of-its-kind dog daycare and training facility, which centralized our mission within our community as a physical resource. We ran it for 9 years successfully until the building we leased from the city was condemned in late 2022, and we’ve not found a new location.


This isn’t the end of our mission, because we existed for 5 years before having a facility, but the difficulty and challenge of moving out of 7,500 square feet into storage units and trying to re-envision how we operate without a central location has been challenging and depressing.

However, I just keep moving forward and try to be the best example of resiliency possible. It hasn’t been easy, but I haven’t given up and I’m still here.


The Association: When did you first decide to take the exam, and why? jme Thomas: I had thought about it for a while, but in 2020 during the shutdowns, I decided to do all the things I never had time for before. I wanted to do it because while I have a lot of college credits, I never got a degree – and this is the closest thing to having a degree for all I have learned and accomplished over the last 14 years. It is a nice thing to be recognized and acknowledged by peers who have done the same.


The Association: What was the most surprising or unexpected thing you learned as you prepared for the CAWA exam? jme Thomas: The likelihood that kids who see abuse often become abusers. Not a fun or good thing to remember! I guess the other would be that I realize how specialized and different rescues can be from shelters, and what we work with in a day. I was reminded of how important it is to work together with shelters, which we do at Motley Zoo.


The Association: What is one example of how you have applied the knowledge gained from the CAWA program in your role at Motley Zoo Animal Rescue? jme Thomas: I contribute to magazines, blogs and other media publications, and the CAWA certification gives me an advantage over other contributors. I have also quoted things I learned during the process and feel I have a more well-rounded knowledge of animal welfare as a whole. The Association: How has becoming a CAWA impacted your career? jme Thomas: Well, the, “upward” mobility of my position is limited, since I founded and have run the org since its inception. But I know if something happened and I couldn’t do Motley Zoo anymore, I’d have some leverage and credibility if seeking a different job in animal welfare. It also helps with media and PR, because people see that I am certified in something that makes me an expert–much more effective than me simply telling them I am!


The Association: Who is a current CAWA you look up to, and why? jme Thomas: Kathleen Olson, currently the ED of Purrfect Pals. I have known her for many years and admire the work she does and the perseverance she has, even when her personal life has been quite trying and full of loss. She is an example of how to move forward gracefully.


The Association: What are your favorite one-sentence leadership tips? jme Thomas: Don’t lose sight of your mission. And, check your ego at the door.

The Association: Last question, for fun: You can invite 5 people from all of history to dinner. Who’s at the table? jme Thomas: Oprah. Susan B. Anthony/suffragettes. Sacagawea. The Dalai Lama. Marilyn Monroe.



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