The following is from an interview conducted with Jane Parker-Rauw, the owner and founder of Potcake Place K-9 Rescue in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.
A little background about Potcakes…
“Strays are endemic across the entire Caribbean and on the Turks & Caicos, they call these dogs “Potcakes,” a name born of an island custom of feeding the poor hounds the caked food at the bottom of a cooking pot. It’s a Caribbean island breed that is a mix of German Shepherd, Labrador and Foxhound Terrier, with a sweet disposition and eyes that just won’t let you look away.” – Forbes Magazine
How did you start Potcake Place?
We started Potcake Place in 2004. It started by me living here and seeing the dogs on the street. I just started taking the dogs and adopting them out. Now I am adopting over 500 a year and were trying to stop them from getting born in the first place. The goal is to go out of business.
How Potcake Place progressed since you first started in 2004?
We have gotten a lot busier, in a good way. We take in 50 to 100 dogs at a time. Sometimes we take in some pups that are pregnant and then give birth to ten pups and the cycle goes on. So we keep thousands of them from being born out of that 500. For the first time in 20 years we are starting to see a big difference in the population which is really good. The center is very popular for visitors. We allow dogs for walks once they get all taken care of. We try and get the dogs socialized by walking and interacting with them daily, and we do see a big difference afterwards.
How many volunteers do you have?
Well it goes up and down.. the island is a transient island so it varies during the time of the year. Tourist love to come down here yearly and volunteer. Kids have to get hours for the school so they love to come down here and do their volunteer time.
How is your relationship with the island?
I’ve been here for over 20 years, I came here for a contract for work and later on was supposed to go onto New York but ended up staying. It’s a great country with great people. The care for the dogs here is great, everyone loves them. Tourist get very emotional about the dogs on the street. Now the number of homeless dogs have dropped dramatically.
Do you have any experiences that stand out?
I went to a conference in the Dominican Republic, an animal welfare conference. They asked this question, “speak about your worst day in rescue and your best day in rescue”. I got paired with the director of the humane society of the United States who gets paid..I don’t know..$500,000 a year? And this man said that the worst day in animal rescue was the year of Hurricane Katrina where they went down to rescue these dogs and cats and it was horrendous. There was no plan. Coincidentally, the best day for rescue was also on Hurricane Katrina when they got their most amount of donations, something like 6 million dollars.
Then, he asked me that same question!
Well my answer is nothing like that but I remember I used to go door to door to pick up dogs to be spayed and neutered. It was an opportunity to talk to the community and I mainly spoke to children because they’re the ones that listen. I remember coming behind this one house where there were about 17 dogs there weren’t spayed or neutered. Most of them were in bad shape. They all had their tails docked. It’s when they tie an elastic band around their tails so the tail rots off and it causes huge amounts of pain and agony. A lot of the dogs have to be put down due to it because their blood is poisoned. It’s awful.
I spent a lot of time talking with these kids. They weren’t doing it on purpose, they just didn’t understand. We asked the kids to name the dogs, give them bright blue collars. We talked to the kids about bringing the dogs water.
6 years later, we opened this center. The first couple of weekends, these teenagers came with a few puppies in their backpack. They said, Ms. Jane we remember you came to our house and told us that dogs needed names. They pointed to the dogs and said this is Beyonce, this is Jay-Z, and so on. They said they saved up $22 to buy them collars and that they wanted to give them shots. Our volunteers then bathed the puppies, gave them collars, vaccinations and all of that.
As they walked out the door, I said boys how did you get here today. They said..”we walked”. These kids walked from the airport to here, hence the puppies were in their backpack. They remembered that I came to their house and told them that dogs were important, that they had to have names, collars and vaccinations.
It may not sound like much but that is exactly what I’m trying to do here everyday. That is the connection that we’re trying to make with people and responsible dog ownership. That’s the transformation I see.
What are you most grateful for in this position?
Sometimes you have days when you see the worst in people… And other days you see the best in people. The way they take care of the dogs you can just tell that they are going to treat the family the same. This country… its just the way that they treat their animals is amazing, I’m so happy to be able to help all these animals and to enjoy the culture.
What do you wish people knew more about this center and this island?
Well, people often come in here thinking that we sell folks these dogs.. but we do not. We ask for a donation but there is no money at all required. We turn down about 50% of the people who apply for adoptions because we don’t want to just get rid of these dogs, we want to give them a good home. I don’t believe in passing my problems over to other people. We want people to know that this is a lifetime commitment. It’s not a souvenir, they need lots of attention. People come on here wanting to help by adopting a puppy, but there are a lot of other ways to help, like bringing day to day supplies for the pups. So my message would be that everyone can do something, that’s the message I want to get out there.