By Justin Boron
Sometimes all it takes is a tattoo on Robin Rawls' right calf to push strangers into liking her or as she puts it becoming an enemy.
The lion face inked permanently in her skin evokes what she said is her rebellious nature, and usually, she said it's the conversation starter that invariably leads to her life's passion - advocating better treatment of animals.
Her stance on animal rights, she said, has been tough to sell in the Clayton County and Henry County area. Rawls said she recognizes that there are people who disagree with her point of view. But their criticism doesn't faze her.
“People constantly say I choose animals over people, and I do,” she said, adding that unlike most humans, animals are often helpless and need advocates.
The discord in her personal relationships, she said, often limits who she hangs out with socially. But at the end of the day, she said she doesn't have much use for people, preferring to be around animals anyway.
As the director of the Clayton County Humane Society, she constantly works to raise money and find homes for the animals. The Humane Society is a “no kill” facility in Jonesboro which houses formerly neglected and abused animals.
But she doesn't limit herself to domesticated animals. She also fights for the rights of wild animals throughout the world.
Combining the two sides of her work is one of her fundraising strategies.
With so few funding resources available, Rawls has launched a Web site where she sells photographs of the creatures she has visited in various parts of the world. All the proceeds go toward her work at the Humane Society.
Since the late 1990s, she has traveled through the wilderness of Canada and much of Africa.
Her first experience was with seals on the icebergs off the coast of Halifax, Canada. There, she captured photographs of seals, which she said are hunted and often times, brutally killed.
Baby seals, called whitecoats for their snow-colored fur, are hunted illegally for their pelts, Rawls said.
When she is not roaming the wilderness or taking helicopters to remote locations, Rawls said she doesn't allow herself too much idle time.
But when the opportunity for a break does arise, there are only a few things she does that aren't animal related.
Even her collecting hobbies gravitate toward animals.
Throughout her home, she has statues of St. Francis, the Catholic patron saint of animals.
Because her husband, Steve, is involved in the recording industry, Rawls said she has the opportunity to meet a lot of her celebrities. So she collects signatures. But she can even find an animal connection to that hobby.
“If I'm not doing animal related things, which is very, very seldom, probably my biggest form of entertainment is music,” she said.
One of her favorite autographs is from legendary songwriter and animal rights advocate Paul McCartney.
With her love for animals seeping into almost every part of her life, Rawls said until she dies, she won't give up her cause.
“If it's something I believe in, like animals, I'm driven, and I'm very passionate, and I'm very stubborn,” Rawls said. “I have to be stubborn. I hit a lot of brick walls in this area.
“I am very serious about what I do . . . about this world's treatment of animals,” she said. “I have spent most of my life trying to change that. Until they start throwing dirt on top of me, I will continue to do that.”
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