Monday, June 3, 2013

This weekend we received an adoption application that ended with this comment:

"I apologize but I am not going to have you call my family and friends to see what kind of person I am in order to provide a kitty with a home. This application already asks for to much as it is!"

And while she was pleasant about it, I cannot agree that our application asks for too much as it is.

We ask for:

  1. Contact Info
  2. List of pets you've owned in the last 10 years 
  3. Do you want indoor or outdoor cat?
  4. What is the reason for your this lifestyle choice (indoor / outdoor)?
  5. Why do you want a cat?
  6. What are the ages of the members of your household
  7. Who will be responsible for the care of the cat?
  8. Do you have a vet and if so, their name and contact info
  9. Do you rent or own, if you rent do you have your landlords permission?
  10. Do you plan to move in the next 12 months?
  11. How much time do you have to spend with a new pet?
  12. Are you prepared to provide a home to this cat for 15+ years?
  13. Are there any other animals in the home?
  14. Where will your new cat stay?
  15. Why would you give up your new pet?
  16. How will your pet be cared for when you are out of town?
  17. Would you ever consider declawing your cat, if so under what circumstances?
  18. How much time do you estimate spending with your new cat?
  19. How much do you estimate caring for your new cat will cost?
  20. How often do you think a cat should go to the vet for routine care?
  21. Please provide 3 references

This was the email response I just sent:


Thank you for your application to adopt a cat with us.  Unfortunately we are unable to process or approve your application as submitted.

As you may know, Alley Cats and Angels is an all volunteer rescue.  We believe strongly in our policies and our programs as all of us have full time jobs and spend our nights and weekends working for the rescue.  The references we ask for we do so for everyone and this is standard practice in the rescue community.  In addition to giving us additional insight into people we do not know, these references have provided us a way to get in touch with people that have lost the cat they adopted from us in the past.  References more often than not have resulted in us approving an application that would have otherwise been denied as questions on a piece of paper really can't accurately summarize a person's character.  

Sometimes the references we have received are friends and family, but sometimes they are simply the family vet.

And while I might understand that you would be uncomfortable providing references unless we needed them to approve the application, your comment that you feel that our application already asks too much as it is leads me to believe that don't understand or respect the time and effort that we put into this 'job' that pays nothing in rewards except the satisfaction of a good home.  And the adoption application and our adoption contract is the best tool we have to determine whether people we meet for maybe an hour would be a good home for the cats and kittens that we invest so much in emotionally.  

Please understand that beyond that comment about references you have a very good application and it saddens me that this is an issue to you.  But our adoption contract itself includes requirements that you keep your address updated with us, that you agree to always return the cat to us, not to a shelter or give to another person and that if you violate the contract we have the right to demand the immediate return of the cat.  If you object to providing the information requested on the application I fear that these additional requirements in the contract would also be objectionable to you.

I'm sure you'll provide a great home for a kitty that needs one, but there are many options available to you that do not require an application or adoption contract including the animal shelter and craigslist.  We are emailed about cats and kittens daily that we cannot help because our foster home capability exceeds our requests, but we do the best we can.  With a core group of approximately 25 volunteers we managed to take in 329 needy cats and kittens to our adoption and barn / garden program last year while adopting out 278 and relocating 29 to barn and garden homes.  That's almost 6 cats / kittens placed a weekend.

So that you can perhaps better understand what kind of a commitment our volunteers have made to Alley Cats and Angels and why we don't feel that we ask for too much on our adoption applications I want to tell you about a typical week for me:

My typical week includes two adoption events, scheduled for 1-4 on weekends (we arrive early to set up and often have to stay until 5 or 6 cleaning up from the event or getting through the paperwork of last minute adoptions) in addition to planning the event - which involves contacting each foster home to make sure they bring their kitties to events, getting additional volunteers to sign up for these events, preparing cage cards and making sure the medical records and other supplies are there.  Yesterday after the adoption event we drew blood, ran FeLV/FIV tests and vaccinated 8 kittens after those events.  I respond to several emails about getting cats or kittens  on our waiting list, or about getting cats or kittens brought to us for intake to the program.  I respond to online adoption applications during the week when I can make time at work, I call the Rollins Lab in Raleigh to get necropsy reports on cats and kittens that we took in from terrible situations that died despite our care.  I get to run kittens to the emergency vet at 3am or call with a credit card number when one of our volunteers is stuck in such a heartbreaking situation.  My husband and I scoop the litter pans in our house 3 times a day and administer medicine 2 times a day to kitties that need it.  I track medical supplies and order what we need weekly either online or by calling the manufacturer.  Often once a week I leave work after 7pm and drive to Apex to pick up supplies or drop off adoption paperwork with a volunteer there before returning to my home in North Raleigh and tending to my nightly cat care duties.  At least once a week I end up at a foster home administering vaccines to cats and kittens that need boosters.  I get the right meds to fosters with sick cats and also coordinate with adopters who adopted a cat but need antibiotics for a cat with a cold per our 21 day health guarantee.  On Friday mornings before work I assist one of our partner vets with spay / neuter by filling out rabies vaccines, vaccinating cats, prepping them for surgery and arranging for another volunteer to pick them up prior to the vet closing - and then I head to work for the day.  I figure out which cats need/can be spayed and neutered early in the week and I make those appointments.  I respond to requests for assistance and advice on a daily basis from other volunteers, former adopters and people that have been referred to us for help.

All this and the adoption program is the only one of our 4 programs that I volunteer with.

I also work a 40+ hour a week job where I am the VP of Sales for a small, successful software company.

So, I hope you now have a better understanding of why I don't believe that we ask for too much on our adoption applications and why with the huge investment of time and emotions that goes into each one of our kittens we want to adopt our cats and kittens out to forever homes where we feel 100% secure that we have partnered with someone on a new pet and that the adoption from us is taken very seriously and they respect and understand how very important each and every one of these animals is to us.  And again, in the very brief time we get with each potential adopter we do our best to feel comfortable that we are honoring the commitment we made to each cat or kitten to get them a loving home for their entire life.

The questions we ask are multifaceted.  They help us get an idea of what kind of cat or kitten would be best suited for that particular adopter, we get an idea of the level of commitment they are able and willing to make to that pet (and understand we are under no delusion that most people do not have the commitment level that we do, but we do want them to respect our level of commitment), and finally to get them to think about what it really takes to have a pet and what the costs (emotional and financial) might be and at what point they would no longer be able to keep that pet (I believe that we all have a breaking point, for some people it's urination, for some it's aggression, for some it's some unforeseen life changing event, but we all have them).  

We want to know that if you would call us if you had a behavioral issue before you reached that breaking point so we could instruct you to take the cat to the vet or help with advice on how to make your kitty happier, we want to know that if you developed severe allergies or had to leave the country that you would honor the agreement to return the cat to us instead of surrendering it to the shelter.  

We want to KNOW, to the best of our ability that the cat you adopted from us will live the rest of it's life with someone who would love it as much or more as we do.  And despite the applications and contracts this doesn't always happen.  But those were applications that were complete, with people we approved, talked to, that agreed to our terms.  And if that can happen with an application that was reviewed by our team and approved, we cannot in good conscience approve an application that was incomplete because a potential adopter felt that we were asking too much.

This is a commitment we make to the cats and kittens in our care, to give them no less than 100%, but also to the volunteers that work with us and give us their nights and weekends and the people that come to us asking for help finding a safe and happy home for a kitty they found in a feral colony they are working to TNR or the kitten they rescued after someone tossed it from a car window.

So I hope you can respect our position here and understand why after discussion we have decided that we cannot approve an application where someone had declined to provide references while also indicating that they feel we ask too much already, as we feel we ask far less of our adopters than is asked of us.

Thank you for your interest and your understanding,

Jill Walters
Adoption Counselor | Medical Coordinator | Volunteer