3:1 Post–Dead cats, ambulances and college students

February 16, 2010 at 2:56 am 3 comments

You’re probably wondering what dead cats, ambulances and college students have in common. Well, nothing, except they’re on my mind and all have me thinking about different facets of public relations. I decided the only way to catch up was to talk about all three in one post.

Dead Cats

Ophelia, a pretty long-haired kitten, died Monday morning at three months or six months, depending on who you believe. She had lived with us for only a week, leaving us a little bewildered. And, yes, leaving me thinking about reputations.

Karen spotted Ophelia on Internet. When we were looking for a kitten a few years ago, Karen signed up for all sorts of alerts and feeds and some of them are still coming in. Recently, we decided it was time to become a two-cat household again. Ironically, a feed with Ophelia’s piOphelia, a rescued kitten, died Monday morning. We feel her loss even though we only had her a week, but her death also raises some issues about reputation of rescue agencies and pet stores.cture arrived at the right moment. It was a great example of using new media or social media to market.

Long story short, we met with a cat rescue person at the Petco in East Hanover. The next day we took Ophelia home. The rescue lady told us about how she came to have Ophelia, who she called Freya, and assured us she was active and healthy. She also warned us that she had not yet taken the kitten to the vet. We decided to take the kitten home and bring her to our vet instead. We knew and trusted him. He declared Ophelia healthy, although she was not an active kitten. The vet’s conclusions left us somewhat dubious about the rescuer’s story. 

Ophelia never really thrived and over her last 48 hours, she slid downhill. Despite our best efforts, she died Monday morning at home.

It, of course, is tragic and even though she’d only been with us a week, we’re upset and asking ourselves a million questions. We knew she wasn’t right and we also know she was warm, well fed and well taken care of in her last  hours. We’ll take comfort in that and move on.

So what’s the PR issue here? Well, first, I have to wonder where caveat emptor ends and rescue agency responsibility begins. Despite a 30-year history of having happy, healthy cats in our lives, this is the second time we’ve adopted a kitten from a Petco who died shortly after arriving home.  I have no doubt that the rescue person’s intentions were nothing but good, but just how do I, as a consumer, ever trust one of these amateur do-gooders again? Is there a standard? Is there some way that rescue agencies can differentiate themselves and establish credibility as organizations that do more than transfer a problem from a shelter to my vet?  We don’t need more laws and regulations, but if I was a rescue person, I’d endeavor to begin to work on my reputation as someone a cat lover can count on. Breeders have done it. Why can’t rescuers?

The other issue on my mind is what would I be thinking if I was Petco? It’s a nice little community relations gig to allow local rescue agencies to set up in the stores. Petco customers are self-qualified as animal lovers and who can resist a playful kitten? It’s quite clear that the rescuers don’t work for Petco and that Petco assumes no responsibility. Yet by welcoming these organizations, the rescuers and Petco are linked in the customer’s mind. And if the kittens are flea-invested or sick, what does that say about Petco?  PetSmart also offers adoptions, but the agencies in those stores somehow seem more stable and trustworthy. Perhaps its just image,but I’d be curious to know if PetSmart has the same issues.


Never accuse me of rushing into anything. Today I distributed a news release about the successful push to extend New Jersey’s Lemon Law to ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. You can see the release here. I hope it ges the word out about the new law. I also think it’s a great lesson in making our system work. You’ve just got to get involved. 

College Students

I wanted to thank the students attending the Fairleigh Dickenson Schering-Plough Executive Lectures for having me a couple of weeks ago. The dozen college students, who were at different points in their careers, were an enthusiastic and insightful group. We had a great discussion about community relations. I talked about it being an on-going, long-term strategy, not a check presentation. We talked about it as a way of conducting business and debated several scenarios. I had a lot of fun and I hope they did too. The PowerPoint presentation I used is here. It includes the scenarios which covered contributions, sponsorships, community meetings and special events and how they fit into a larger strategy of ethical conduct and community engagement.


Entry filed under: Lemon Law for Emergency Vehicles, reputation, stuff & rants. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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  • 1. Christy  |  February 16, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Good points here, Doug, Sad that they even had to be said.

  • 2. Viola  |  February 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I enjoyed reading your posts and am sorry about your experience with the cat you adopted from Petco. I myself volunteer for the Monmouth County SPCA. Animals are never adopted out without first having a full exam and all shots. This should be standard practice. Even so, there is always a certain amount of unknown surrounding rescued animals. Some problems may never show up during a routine vet exam. I sincerely hope you give adoption another chance.

    • 3. dougtheprguy  |  February 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm

      Thanks for replying. We’re taking a quick breather, but then we’ll try again. And this time, we’ll know to make sure that all those things you do for your cats have been done!



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