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Discussion Starter #1
I have a hypothetical question for people who work at animal shelters, specifically those making the decision about who gets to adopt your animals:

Say there's an extended family you've had problematic adoptions with in the past. Nothing truly horrific (no hoarders or criminal abuse or anything) but several pets you've adopted to members of the family have been returned for trivial reasons, rehomed without permission, or have been hit by cars outside.

The family has a very distinctive surname and a fair degree of local prominence (in a positive way in general, except for the animal thing) so you're likely to recognize anyone who is related.

Now say someone you've never had any dealings with in the past comes in with the same surname. That person is from a different immediate family, but is related to the people you had problems with. She had no involvement in the issues, and her personal animal owning history is totally clean.

Should that person even bother trying to adopt from you, or is the rest of the family history too much of a red flag? If you'd be willing to talk to the person, would you prefer for her to bring up the family history directly, or would you rather it not be discussed unless you initiate the conversation?

Thanks for any insight you can provide. :)
 

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I'm just going through my training to conduct adoption interviews, so this is good practice for me.

We probably would allow the person to apply and be interviewed IF none of the offending family members resided in the applicant's household and would not have direct responsibility for the care of the animal.

As part of the interview, without bringing up the family, I might emphasize details that I knew to be relevant in the past, such as... Do you know why permission is required to rehome a cat? Do you understand the consequences of allowing a cat outdoors when you live next to a busy street?

During my training it's been emphasized to me to try to get a feel of the applicant's seriousness and/or concern for the animal's wellbeing. This is hard for me because it's not black & white and can be faked.

For me personally, it would be a huge plus if she DID bring up her family's shortcomings with these issues in the past and use it as a starting off point to say "I will do better."
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for your explanation and your honesty, NebraskaCat. I really appreciate it. :)

This is very reassuring to me. I was spending my afternoon looking for three-cat-friendly apartments and reading reviews of veterinary ophthalmologists, and suddenly I thought, "You know, if the shelter people aren't even going to talk to me the moment they hear my name, this is all a big waste of time."

You've set my mind at ease. :)
 

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I'm not a shelter worker, but I will chime in with my 2 cents anyway. I would not want to be judged by the actions of my extended family or a common surname, unless the offenders are members of my immediate family and live under my roof. I would want to be judged as an individual, not as part of a collective last name. I don't even think it is ok to bring up the past bad actions of others as a subject of discussion that have the same last name. Judge people as individuals, not as peas in a pod.

We had a poster recently, I think his name was Newbie, whose brother in law was an admitted abuser. This poster would have been devasted to be lumped in to the same reputation as the abuser.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Marcia, in an ideal world I agree with you. (In case this wasn't already obvious, the hypothetical "she" is my own real situation.) I'd like to see that happen too. It's just that in some parts of small town rural America, being judged for yourself and not by your family connections (whether positively or negatively) just isn't going to happen. So the point of my question was more to get at what people were realistically going to think.

I had suspected that, as NebraskaCat confirmed, it was indeed going to be a factor.

I adopted Zephyr from a city shelter in Northern Canada, and the workers there described me as "stellar" and "exactly the sort of person we're looking for" - because whether my extended family were good pet owners just didn't come up. Here, things are very different.

I'm somewhat of two minds about it, because on the one hand I can't helping thinking that if the situation were otherwise totally identical but our last name was Smith instead of something recognizable, the issue would disappear. On the other hand, I would never blame a shelter for doing whatever is necessary to ensure the animals are going to a good home.

I guess at this point I was more just looking for answers about what would happen, and leaving aside the shoulds because it is what it is.
 

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I've done adoption counseling for the local shelter. If you showed up with an uncommon name, one that was on our radar list as undesirable pet owners...then I have to say, yes, it would affect the interview. I would know that I need to treat you as an individual, but I would grill you a lot harder than the average person off the street. I would never bring up the history of other members of the family, but I would definitely be trying to find out if any of them lived with you and what your history of animal ownership was. And I would err on the side of caution if any of your answers seemed off.

I also agree that bringing it up yourself would be the best approach. Indicate that you are from a different branch of the family and your parents have "raised you better". The fact that you acknowledge without any prompting that your family members are a bunch of losers when it comes to pet responsibilities says a lot about you. Assurances that you don't live with any of the family members, will never allow them to take care of your pets etc.

You may even find out that they're aren't as bright a spot on the radar screen as you believe...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks, Doodlebug. I appreciate your perspective and your honesty. :)

I do hope it will turn out that there are no blanket negative feelings. That's very possible. Like I said, it's a small town. The shelter doesn't have a high volume of adoptions. I'm not sure how carefully they track their outcomes, though. So they may not actually be concerned.

Not like I couldn't pursue adoption elsewhere if it's an insurmountable issue. It's just one of things where there's a particular pet I'm interested in. If that doesn't work out, though, there are options.
 

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Please don't let what I said affect your future actions. Like I said, I don't do the interviews yet. I'm just in training.

I agree (and the shelter I represent would say) that the application should be considered based solely on the people who reside in the household and those who will be responsible for the care of the cat.

The only reason I added the last part about it could be good for the applicant to mention up front that her extended family has done things was to see a statement of "I am not my relatives, I am a good cat mom." That essentially negates the interviewer from going down that road. (I am very familiar with small town thinking also.) Other interviewers at my shelter may disagree with this - that's why I noted it as a personal opinion when I wrote it.

I really do apologize if what I said was harmful.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Oh, I'm not hurt. Seriously, not even a little.

I wanted honest answers, and I feel I've gotten them - so I sincerely am grateful. :)

I know tone isn't conveyed well over the internet, but I'm truly not the least bit upset about anything that has been said here.

This won't change my actions. I'm just trying to prepare myself for the possibilities because I don't want to get too attached to an idea that's just a fantasy, know what I mean? (And there are other things that can go wrong - for example, if they don't want to bother pursuing a Canadian vet reference, I wouldn't blame them for that either.)

I've adopted from a shelter before, so I know they have to ask questions and it's for the good of the animals. That's not a problem for me. :)

Actually, I decided to send the shelter an e-mail to see if I could volunteer there. Not for reasons directly connected to this, but because I've lived outside the United States for a number of years and now that I'm back and staying put here for awhile, I would like to get out more and make some new friends. I dropped off a donation there once and the people seem really nice. We'll see how it goes.
 

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I always felt the Slytherins got a bad reputation for no reason. But then it didn't help that they essentially all took off in the last book. I blame JKR, what a terrible message to send to kids; an entire group of people are cowards. :-|

I don't know if you're planning to adopt another kitty, but good luck! If you end up volunteering there I'm sure it won't take long for them to see past a family name. Sometimes you've got to show initiative to get a position volunteering at shelters too, not just filling out a forum and expecting a call (not that you'd necessarily do that...).

When I started volunteering I first sent in an application and had a tour around since I'd never been there before, but two weeks went by after that and I'd still not heard a word about when/if I could start.

I showed up again. The lady there seemed to know who I was despite that I hadn't met her before (she runs the city shelter though) so after I met her she set up a time for me to volunteer ... but I wonder if she'd have got around to calling if I hadn't shown up a second time to meet her personally.

As it turned out they gave me one of the biggest rooms (and FIV/FeLV to boot) to work in; seemed like a big responsibility on a first day, especially since most first time people I've seen since then are assigned smaller locations... but I think they figured I knew cats, and likely they'd wanted the person "in charge" to meet me before assigning me anywhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I always felt the Slytherins got a bad reputation for no reason.
Likewise. Ambition and drive are not bad things. They're actually crucial to have if one ever wants to get anything done for a good cause. ;)

I don't know if you're planning to adopt another kitty, but good luck!
Not, like, tomorrow or anything. ;) I need to find an apartment that allows three cats before I can consider adopting, and I'm not sure how long that will take.

In the fairly near future, though, yes.

There's one particular cat I'm interested in. If she's adopted by someone else in the meantime, good for her and she wasn't meant to be with me. If she's not, though, I do plan to apply. She seems like a real sweetheart. That's actually why I mentioned offhand that I was researching veterinary ophthalmologists - she's supposedly permanently blind in one eye, but I'd want her to see a specialist before I accept that nothing can be done.

If it doesn't work out to adopt from this shelter for whatever reason, there's one in Buffalo that I know for a fact will accept Canadian references. So there are other options too.

I'll be sure to let my forum friends know when/if there's an addition to the family. :)

Sometimes you've got to show initiative to get a position volunteering at shelters too, not just filling out a forum and expecting a call (not that you'd necessarily do that...).
I think this is likely, simply because they don't have a lot of staff or resources. I do plan to follow up if they don't get back to me soon-ish. I just sent in the initial inquiry, though, so I also don't want to bug them about it yet. I will definitely follow up when a reasonable length of time has passed. :)

Thanks for sharing your experiences!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Y'all, I'm kind of an idiot. :p

I totally wasn't thinking about the fact that I have a different connection to the shelter that they will probably actually see as more significant - I'm friends with a couple who are long-term volunteers there.

It didn't occur to me as related because as far as I know my friends aren't involved in the actual adoptions... but the adoption workers do know them regardless.

I can get them to vouch for me, which I'm sure will make a difference. :)
 

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It would also definitely help if they got to know you as a volunteer...

When I adopted Kobi the conversation went like this:

Me: Hey Tami (animal care manager), I want that black kitten with the white medallion on his chest.

Tami: OK, take him.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
When I adopted Kobi the conversation went like this:

Me: Hey Tami (animal care manager), I want that black kitten with the white medallion on his chest.

Tami: OK, take him.
Cool. :)

It totally makes sense - I mean, at that point they know you and trust you.

That said... you guys are going to think I'm crazy, but I actually enjoyed the interview when I adopted Zephyr. The woman was really nice, and it's unusual to find another person who wants to talk about cats as much as I want to talk about them, so it was a fun conversation. ;)

Maisie was a stray a coworker found, which was cool but it meant I didn't get to go talk cats with the nice shelter lady again. :p
 

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Yup...you definitely need to go volunteer...I have a group of friends I met at the shelter and we can spend a whole night talking about pretty much nothing but animals. Sometimes we have to be careful because we can be in a restaurant and be talking poop consistency or how many times one of the cats puked while eating our dinner...the people next to us are usually unappreciative :lol:
 

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I look forward to my volunteer shift more than any other single recurring event in my calendar.

I don't know if that speaks well of volunteering or is just a sad commentary on my life. But it is nice to hang out with like-minded people, and even more rewarding to hang out with all the cats. I go an hour ahead of my shift time and just spend time in the Special Unit with the FIV/FeLV kitties just petting and playing and destressing.
 

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Yup...you definitely need to go volunteer...I have a group of friends I met at the shelter and we can spend a whole night talking about pretty much nothing but animals. Sometimes we have to be careful because we can be in a restaurant and be talking poop consistency or how many times one of the cats puked while eating our dinner...the people next to us are usually unappreciative :lol:
Yep, definitely my kind of people. ;)

I'm really excited about the possibility about volunteering, regardless of what happens with adopting or not.

Volunteering had always been the plan, but I was trying to figure out where I was going to be renting because I wasn't sure which of two shelters I'd be living closer to. Finally I just decided I was tired of waiting, and I have a car so even if it turns out I picked the further shelter it's not that big of a deal.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Just as an update, I did my first day of volunteer work at the shelter today. It was really fun! :D

While I was there I got to spend some time with the cat I hope to adopt in the future (unless she finds another home first, obviously,) and she was just as sweet as I imagined. :)
 
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