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Love of animals brought Tennessee boy, Pennsylvania girl together

By Laurin Stroud


Jill and Scottie Howell are from two different worlds, but their love of animals brought them together.

Jill is from York, Penn. where she attended Penn State.

“I have always loved animals, and I knew I wanted to be a vet since I was 5 years old,” she said. “I didn’t know what else to do, I guess.”

Scottie, a Gibson County native, was born and raised around animals and attended UT Martin.  When he was 14, he was a tech at the Trenton Animal Clinic under Dr. Lynn McHugh.

Scottie and Jill met after college while they both attended Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies. After vet school, the two studied their last year of medicine in Oklahoma. They were considered “foreign veterinary graduates.”

Once Jill and Scottie both took the extra tests needed to obtain their licenses to practice within the US, they were able to practice in Tennessee. Only a few states were open to this new law, and Pennsylvania was on a year long waiting list. The couple decided plant their roots in West Tennessee. Scottie had promised McHugh that he would return to the Trenton Animal Clinic as an associate.

Although Jill is a long way from home, she has found her place in Gibson County.

“It’s hard, but we have a really good support group here,” she said. “From everyone in his family, to our work family, friends, babysitters, and everyone else – that really helps across the board.”

Once, the couple moved to Tennessee, Jill worked as an independent relief vet, filling in at other clinics. In 2008, McHugh left the clinic, and the Howells decided to buy it and make it into a three-doctor practice with Dr. Mark Burketta, who was already working at the clinic.  They currently have an office manager, three receptionists, a licensed vet tech, two vet techs that are currently in school, a large animal tech, a small animal tech, and a groomer.

The balance between home life and work life is nonexistent, but the husband and wife duo have different specialties and strengths.

“We have to be a team,” Jill said. “Scottie does larger animals and surgery, where I do smaller animals and bookkeeping. Even though we’re together, we’re not constantly in the same room.”


The Howells have endured some adversities during their married life. In 2006, they lost their home in the F-3 tornado that ripped through north Gibson County. They were at home and were pulled from their basement from Sheriff’s Deputy Jay Morris.

In 2010, the 100-year flood hit the clinic.

“It took on the worst waters it had ever had,” Jill said. “There was four to five feet [of water] in the front office. We had sheriff’s deputies pulling animals out of crates beside us and helping the livestock in the back.”

In 2015, the Howells lost their 2-year-old daughter Sami. There was such an outpouring of love, support, and monetary donations from the community that they decided to honor their daughter and create the Samantha Anna Howell Memorial Agriculture Scholarship, given through the Trenton Elks Lodge to a high school senior(s) planning to pursue a career in agriculture.

They do fundraisers throughout the year to raise money. Their biggest is Sami Day, which is normally held in the spring or summer at the Elks Lodge. It is a fun filled day for kids with rides, food and games during the day and a meal, live band, and auction in the evening. If they raise enough money throughout the year, they are able to give a scholarship to a returning college student.

The Howells are active members of their community. Scottie is a member of the Trenton Elks and said the Elks do a lot for the community that people do not know about. They help out with the Angel Tree at Christmas time, Meals on Wheels, and other small acts of kindness. He is also the vice president of the Gibson County Fair Board. His father was on the fair board, and Scottie was raised behind the scenes of the fair.

Jill is a member of the Trenton Exchange Club, and she is also on the board for the Trenton branch of Gibson County Relay for Life.

The Howells have resided in the China Grove community out from Rutherford since 2006. They currently have ponies, mules, donkeys, hogs, goats, chickens, pot belly pigs, llamas, miniature donkeys, sheep, turkeys, geese, and some “pocket pets” – dogs, cats, birds, a porcupine, rats, and guinea pigs. They have two children Levi, 10, and Remi, 2.

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