Candy’s Cats, Inc

Candy's Cats, Inc.

“Our focus is on saving those who are not saved without our help.”

Candy Sullivan has been a champion for cats in need since 2002, and in 2005, she founded Candy’s Cats, Inc. on a shoestring and a hope.

No stranger to the struggle of cats on the street, Candy has been a driving force in central Florida for cat rescues and adoptions.   Her drive to help Florida’s cats began when she realized that over a year and a half, 31 kittens had been born to the feral colony near her.  After getting the mother cats fixed and the kittens adopted out, she was ready to rescue more.

She began by working with another group, It’s All About the Cats, Inc.  When she began her own organization, a former volunteer contacted her.

“How do you keep your records?” she asked Candy.  And that was Candy’s introduction to RescueGroups.org.

“It was right before Christmas,” she said.  “A volunteer set up my RescueGroups.org account and then I was alone with it for the holiday.” She laughed.  “And if somebody like me, not computer literate, but able to delete everything on my computer without trying, if I can do it and teach everybody else to do it, then anybody can use it,” she said.

Initially, Candy’s Cats didn’t use all the services they had signed up for.  “We just didn’t have the volunteers,” she explained.

“2007 was our heyday.  We did about 700 adoptions, we had 45 fosters, and 400 cats.” She laughed as she told of Saturdays where volunteers would call her “at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and tell me they were out of cats.”  Currently, the group has about 25 to 30 volunteers at any given time.

“The online adoption applications are amazing.  We do all our communication with potential adopters through the form.”

Best of all, she said, they have a dedicated volunteer who maintains the adoption forms, the contracts, and other online documentation.  “It’s great,” she added.  “The online adoption applications are amazing.  We do all our communication with potential adopters through the form,” she said.  “All of our comments about the adoption are in one place for all of us to see at any time.”

When the volunteer who manages forms for Candy’s Cats was hospitalized for 10 days, the organization found out just how valuable online availability can be.  “We had everything at our fingertips,” Candy said.  Since she travels frequently, the ability to view applications and their comments while traveling has become invaluable.

Candy’s Cats has a number of loyal donors that have allowed the group to grow and maintain a premier reputation.

Candy said it’s been a lot of hard work.   “We have a protocol, and we stick to it, no matter what,” she said.  Each cat must meet vaccination requirements and be neutered before they can attend an adoption event.  “No exceptions,” she added.  They’ve seen their share of illness, she said, citing one set of kitties who came in with upper respiratory infections, coccidia, and ringworm.

Using the file upload function of their RescueGroups.org account, volunteers can keep veterinary medical records, special needs instructions, and any other information attached to each cat’s web page.  All volunteers can access the documents they need anywhere.

The organization also does an annual fundraiser so that veterinary expenses are paid for when foster families follow the protocol.  The group works with seven vets and has numerous adoption sites.  “One of the keys to our success has been some really generous donors,” Candy said.  “We’ve been able to afford to establish a specific protocol for vet work and follow it every time.”

The cats in the program are mostly found cats, but some are from shelters, and are the special needs cats, abuse cases, hoarding situations.  One cat is recovering from a broken jaw.  “Once they are in my clutches, they’re not going back to the shelter,” Candy said emphatically.  “We take care of them.”

The Online Forms Service has been invaluable to Candy’s Cats, but Candy also loves the Website Service.  “We’ve completely changed our website about six or seven times.  I love it!,” she said.  “It’s easy to use.”

For Candy’s Cats, an attractive website, the ability to send potential adopters to an online form, and some fantastic volunteers and donors, are the keys to the success.  And the energy and exuberance of the founder, Candy Sullivan, whose door is always open to a cat in need.

 

Beware of phishing attacks – we will never ask for your password

Security is very important to us.

Recently, some of our groups received a bogus letter from one of the adoption sites, asking them for their account information on that site.  This is what is called a “phishing” attack.

Phishing is when someone poses as a legitimate organization and attempts to get sensitive information such as, in this instance, a password.

We will never ask you for your account password.  We may ask for your account number, but never for your password.

If you receive an email that appears to be from RescueGroups.org and asks you for your account, it is not from us, so do not respond, and contact our support team to let us know.

Our organizations carry sensitive information such as a donor’s contact information and address.  We have security measures installed that keep your information private and accessible only by your volunteers.

The BRATs and RescueGroups.org

Basset Rescue Across Texas

Anne Fifield loves Basset Hounds, and she loves RescueGroups.org.

Anne came to Basset rescue by way of a Toy Manchester Terrier she got in 2004. After a month, she wanted her new pup to have a playmate. Her husband Tom wanted the next dog to be  a dog for him, and he liked long-bodied dogs. Anne thought, “Okay, great, a Dachshund.” But no, he had a different idea - a Basset Hound.

“They are big; they drool; they are hard to train. Nearly everything I didn’t want in a dog is embodied in a Basset,” Anne laughs. They adopted an 85-pound shelter Basset, “And our lives were turned upside down.”

When that first Basset passed on, “We knew we needed another Basset,” she said, tears creeping into her voice as she remembered. “We had Karlie within a week.”

In 2006, Anne began volunteering for the group from which she adopted Karlie. In 2008, she started working with a Basset rescue in Houston.

“In 2011, Bassets were still dying in the Dallas area. One Basset rescue in Dallas just wasn't enough,” she said. “We started by picking dogs up in Dallas and taking them to Houston to save.”

A former adopter pitched in the cash to help the fledgling Basset Rescue Across Texas open its doors in 2011 with three primary volunteers. “I knew I wanted BRAT in the name because that’s what Bassets are - big, lovable, adorable brats we love dearly."

In her work as a volunteer for the first rescue group, Anne had used RescueGroups.org technology, and as soon as BRAT began, she signed the new group up for all of the RescueGroups.org services. “BRAT uses the voicemail, the website, the email, the email services so we can send out an email blast, the reporting...it’s all been so very helpful.

"The group in Houston used spreadsheets and email for all their tasks.  It was like going back to caveman days.” She helped the rescue in Houston to work more efficiently by signing them up with RescueGroups.org. To this day, they are still using all of RescueGroups.org services. They thank Anne for that contribution.

“If you aren't using RescueGroups.org, then you're working in the dark ages. You can do as little or as much as you want. It will make your rescue efforts so much easier. I wouldn't be able to do rescue without them.”

“The beauty about RescueGroups.org is you don't need to be tech savvy,” she said. “Another thing I love is that all of your volunteers are working on the same system. Files and information don’t get lost. With the Website service, I don't need to keep paper records. All my files are kept electronically. “

Anne cites the online applications and the exports to adoption sites as two of the most helpful RescueGroup.org services.

“If you have the Pet Adoption Portal or Website service, you don't need to manually upload your animals to other sites for exposure. RescueGroups.org does it for you. It helps so much to get our dogs out to over 200 sites. When I put a dog on my website, I don’t have to worry about advertising it to get it adopted.”

Anne says she’s an ambassador for RescueGroups.org technology. She even volunteered with RescueGroups.org for a while. “When people tell me all they need is the Pet Adoption Portal, I say, ‘You have to have it all!’”

Not only is she a fan of all the technology services, but “I couldn’t believe the prices for what you get.” She concluded, “I like that RescueGroups.org is a nonprofit like us. They understand the needs of nonprofits.”

RescueGroups.org has helped many other organizations like Basset Rescue Across Texas to realize their dreams of streamlined animal management, increased adoptions, and greater visibility. We understand dreams.

Now hiring a Community Coordinator / Tech Writer

We're excited to add a Community Coordinator / Tech Writer to our team!  We're looking for the right person to help us improve our services, specifically with our User Guide, Questions, and feature requests.

Please take a look at our Job Opportunities page and follow the instructions in the Next Steps section to apply for the position!

Change in Yahoo’s domain policy causes issue for email delivery

Update 5/1/2014:  AOL has also updated their security settings, which will cause messages to be rejected. See the following post by AOL: http://postmaster-blog.aol.com/2014/04/22/aol-mail-updates-dmarc-policy-to-reject/

Recently, Yahoo made a change to their domain email policy that is causing a large amount of email messages from being rejected.

Here are a few articles we came across while researching this issue:

http://www.infoworld.com/d/security/update-yahoo-email-anti-spoofing-policy-breaks-mailing-lists-240068

http://emailskinny.com/2014/04/07/yahoo-mail-brings-the-pain-with-dmarc-policy-change/

http://thehackernews.com/2014/04/yahoos-new-dmarc-policy-destroys-every.html

This issue is causing issues for RescueGroups.org clients in the following ways:

Organization Email Address

If your organization's email address is a Yahoo address (@yahoo.com) or AOL address (@aol.com), many email providers will reject the emails that are sent by our system.

Problem: When our servers send an email to one of your visitors (primarily with our Website service), our server uses your organization email address as the source for the message.  If the source email address is on the Yahoo domain the message is rejected due to Yahoo/AOL's security setting.

Resolution: Change your organization's email address to one that isn't on the Yahoo or AOL domain.  You can do that by going to Services > Account Administration > Contact Information.

Email Forwarding

Inbound email from @yahoo.com and @aol.com email addresses will be rejected when we try to forward them on to you.

Problem: When our email service forwards an email to your final destination mailbox, our server uses the source email address as the source for the forwarded message.  If the source email address is on the Yahoo or AOL domain the message is rejected due to Yahoo's security setting.

Resolution: We do not have a resolution to this issue other than switching to email hosting (and not using email forwarding).

Online Forms Reply To Email Address

If you have your Reply to email address set to an @yahoo.com or @aol.com address, emails sent by our system will be rejected.  This includes new Submitted Form alerts, notifications to the submitter, and other alerts.

Problem: When our servers send an email related to an Online Form we use the Reply to email address as the source for the message.  If the source email address is on the Yahoo or AOL domain the message is rejected due to Yahoo's security setting.

Resolution: Change the Online Form's Reply to email address to one that is not on the Yahoo or AOL domain.  You can make this change by going to Features > Online Forms, click the Edit button next to the Online Form, and change the Reply to Email Address.  Then click Save Online Form.

New picture handling, and missing pictures – update

We've been working the past couple months (read our blog post) on improving the way we store and handle the animal pictures you upload.  From redesigning how we store them, to how (and when) we resize them, we're working to provide you with more options.

It's going to take a while, but we'll have more picture sizes available soon for the Toolkit, API exports, and our Website service.  We're even trying to upload the highest quality images to websites like Adopt-a-Pet.com and Petfinder (to the extent they can support them).

This past week we experienced some issues with the way we were uploading pictures to Adopt-a-Pet.com, so some pets didn't have any pictures for a few hours... and we do apologize for those growing pains.

There will probably be additional times when pet pictures disappear for a short time while pictures are reprocessed.  If you notice any issues, please contact RescueGroups.org Support, although if you wait a couple hours, the pictures should reappear on their own.

Thank you for your patience and support!

You decide – you’re responsible for your own exports

RescueGroups.org provides your adoptable pets and public organization information to as many websites and services as possible -- because that's a really good way for people to find out about your organization and what you're doing in the community.

But not every website is the perfect match for your organization -- so we give you complete control over where your information is sent.

Before a new export is added, we review your Preferences for exports to new services and websites, which you can update under Animals > Exports > Settings.  That way, certain exports can be disabled from the start (like websites with Classified listings, or pets for sale, etc).

RescueGroups.org does not require anything specific from the individuals and companies that use our Data APIs (ie., we do not police or filter the websites).  We believe in giving you that control.

You should, on a regular basis, review your list of exports, review the websites, and verify that any and all enabled exports meet your expectations.  You can do that from your Animals > Exports page at any time.

We realize this is a little different than what you might be used to.  We believe it's the correct approach, primarily because you have the right to know and control where your information will be displayed.

Thoughts or comments?  Please post in the comments below.

We’re retiring our Website traffic reports and analytics

We're retiring the RescueGroups.org Website service traffic reports and web analytics.  Starting August, 2014 we will no longer collect hits/pageviews on our Website service, or show web page hit counters.

We strongly recommend that you add one of the freely available Web Analytics trackers to your website.  The Google Analytics tool provides a lot more features and useful reporting than we would be able to provide, and many organizations are already using them on their website.

We have already added support for the Google Analytics code directly in the Affiliates feature of your Website service.  To add the Google tracking code to your website all you have to do is go the Affiliates page and enable the Google Analytics affilate, and enter the UA code.

If there is a different web analytics tool you'd like to use, you can always add the necessary code to your website's Header, or to a Custom Code Snippet.

We are providing a 3-month transition period to allow you to setup your web reporting tool.  Please see this User Guide article for help creating a new Google Analytics account, and please contact Support if you need any assistance.

Overstock.com – amazing new exposure for adoptable pets

We’re excited to tell you that Overstock.com will soon be adding an adoption listing feature to their website!

Overstock.com has been a big supporter of pet adoption in Utah, where they are based – in fact, they have been for years. Helping rescues and shelters is not a new thing to them.

We’re very happy that Overstock has decided to take a larger role in helping adoptable pets find a home on a national scale.

I believe that Overstock.com is the most well-known Internet presence to provide a national adoptable pet search. It’s great that they have also decided to support the rescue/shelter community even further by receiving your adoptable pet data from RescueGroups.org.

Overstock.com is already in your Exports list (see your Animals > Exports page), and was added using your New Exports preferences a few months ago.

Their adoption search feature will go live on or about March 28, 2014.  If you’d like to read more about Overstock and their support of the animal welfare community, please see their landing page:

http://pets.overstock.com

It’s time for better animal picture handling

So right now, RescueGroups.org takes an uploaded image and creates two new images:

  • A "fullsize" version that is a maximum of 500px wide
  • A "thumbnail" version that is a maximum of 100px wide

The 500px wide limit was originally put into place (back in 2002) because that was what Petfinder limited their pictures to.  I'm not really sure why we followed their lead and resized all of our images instead of thinking for ourselves -- oh well, can't change the past.

That method is obviously not going to work in the long run, and we're in the process of changing it.

When the updates go live, we will start to have three versions of animal pictures:

  • The "original" image file (not resized or changed, although we may decide to always convert to jpg format)
  • A "large" size image that is a maximum of 500px wide
  • A "small" size image that is a maximum of 100px wide

Any current/old pictures would obviously just have two actual picture files, since the "original" image would have been resized.

Also, we're moving the animal pictures into a different directory structure in preparation for some new features in the future.  This task is going to take weeks because we have millions of animal pictures, and each picture has to be copied individually.

Once things settle, we'll be able to start using the different image sizes in various places and give our users (like the website service, Toolkit, etc) more options to use larger images (or smaller/medium sized images in some cases).

We're hoping to update our production systems within the next week.  We're hoping to minimize any inconvenience, but if you experience any problems, please contact support.