For 25 years, he held leadership roles in advertising and marketing, as he directed client services and developed corporate branding guidelines for several firms. But a few years ago Andy Jacuzzi was lured to the nonprofit world and appears to have found his niche in helping those in need. First, from 2011 to 2015, he managed Door of Hope, which ministers to chronically homeless and disabled humans. More recently, since March 2015, Jacuzzi has been the executive director of the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, which rehabilitates injured and abused animals and places them in loving homes. Here, the graduate of the University of Central Arkansas talks about the similarities of both missions, how the species are interconnected, and seeing “the best and worst of what people can be and do.”
What prompted you to accept a leadership position with Door of Hope?
I was recruited by the board chair of that organization to come in as the interim director. I had never really considered working in nonprofit until that time. I agreed to a six-month contract, but fell in love with the mission and the individuals that Door of Hope serves and ended up staying over five years.
What parallels do you see between that organization and the people it helps and the Humane Society and its charges?
The missions are very similar: Both organizations save lives, rehabilitate, and find homes for the individuals they serve. Each provides a second chance or more, if needed, for their guests to live happy and fulfilling lives. Each, in their own right, represents and gives a voice to those who can’t help themselves. I like the way both are so interconnected. We save animals’ lives, primarily dogs and cats, and work hard to place them in good homes where they themselves enhance the lives of their humans.
At the Humane Society, how many employees do you manage?
On average we have about 35 employees, and we have an active volunteer/foster base of about 250.
What gets you down about your job?
In this position, I see both the best and the worst of what people can be and do. Because our mission focuses on injured and abused animals, we see animals that have been mistreated by humans — shot, stabbed, set on fire, left to die, etc. What gets me down is knowing that so many more animals are in need in the Memphis and Shelby County area that we just do not have the funding and capacity to help. Our resources are not infinite. It is heartbreaking for everyone here to know that animals are being abused and neglected on a daily basis and their plight goes unanswered because the need is more than all of the agencies in our local animal welfare community can handle.
What lifts you up and makes you happy?
Well, obviously it’s coming in each day and seeing the faces of the dogs and cats and other assorted animals that we save and re-home. But, in addition to that, it’s having the opportunity to work with our fantastic staff of dedicated animal-care professionals, who work tirelessly to care for each animal we take in. It is also an honor and very humbling to know that we have the undying support of so many volunteers and loyal supporters and donors, without whom HSMSC could not continue to do the very important work that we do.
Do you think Memphis is making strides in animal welfare? Why or why not?
Yes, I do think Memphis is making strides, but it is a long, slow process with much work to be done on a number of fronts. Thousands of animals are euthanized across the county each year for no other reason than being homeless. Adding to that problem, every single day is the fact that there are an estimated 120,000-plus dogs and cats in Memphis that are not spayed or neutered. Proactive, high-volume spay/neuter must be a priority for everyone in animal welfare if we hope to eliminate all this preventable suffering.
As a volunteer with animal rescue groups, I’ve heard people say, “Why do you want to help animals when people are hurting so?” What would be your response to that?
Human suffering and animal suffering are all connected. My initial emotional response to that question is that animals provide humans with unconditional love and help us mentally, emotionally, and even physically simply by their presence. We owe it to them to keep them safe and cared for. But practically, there are other reasons. Many studies find a link between the abuse of animals and violence against people, for example. In addition, pet abuse is one of four predictors of domestic partner violence. Finally, having a lot of abused, neglected, and stray animals affects quality of life for humans in a community. A large population of stray animals is a health hazard for humans, with a risk of both zoological communicable diseases and a risk of bites or attacks.
Tell us about your family, critters included of course.
I am in a long-term relationship with the lovely and talented Shannon Maltby, and I am the very proud father of Hannah, who is an overachiever and a superstar in everything she does. Two nicer people you would be lucky to find. We have four rescue pets including Maggie, a rottweiler-Australian shepherd mix; Tabby, a long-haired tabby cat; and Fiona, a short-haired grey cat.
What’s an unusual fact about yourself readers would find interesting?
I taught Ballroom Dancing for a cotillion for over five years.
Are you any relation to the Jacuzzis of whirlpool bath fame?
That was my father’s business; he was one of the inventors. It was all family-owned but has now been sold. We also have family wineries in Sonoma.
How do you unwind when you get home?
Usually by exercising. I love the Greenline and am on it just about every day on my bicycle. A quick 20-25-mile ride in the evening is good for me mentally and physically.